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Encyclopaedia of 
the Qur^an 



Jane Dammen McAuliffe, General Editor 

Brill, Leiden — Boston 




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William M. Brinner, University of 

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Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY 
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Brown 



Biblical patriarch, son of Isaac (q.v.), men- 
tioned sixteen times by name in the Qur'an 
and probably referred to by the name 
Isra'll another two times (see Israel). The 
form of the name in Arabic, Ya'qub, may 
have come directly from the Hebrew or 
may have been filtered through Syriac 
(Jeffery, For. vocab., 291; see foreign 
vocabulary); the name was apparently 
used in pre-Islamic times in Arabia (Horo- 
vitz, Jewish proper names, 152; id., KU, 
qur'an). Most frequently, Jacob is men- 
tioned simply within the list of patriarchs 
along with Abraham (q.v.) and Isaac, fol- 
lowingjewish tradition (q_ 6:84; 11:71; 
12:38; 19:49; 21:72; 29:27; 38:45), with Ish- 
mael (q.v.) added on occasion (q_ 2:136, 140; 
3:84; 4:163; and perhaps 2:132). The narra- 
tive of the life of Jacob in the Qur'an is 
primarily limited to his role in the Joseph 
(q.v.) story in which he orders his sons not 
to all go through a single gate into the city 
(q_ 12:67; see Shapiro, Haggadischen Elemente, 
i, 55-6) and in which he becomes blind due 
to his sorrow (over Joseph, cf. Q_ 12:84). His 
sight, however, is restored when his face 
(q.v.) is touched by the shirt of Joseph 
(q_ 12:93, 96; see vision and blindness; 

clothing). Jacob's last words (Gen 49) are 
also echoed in Q_ 2:133, "... when he said to 
his sons, 'What will you serve after me?' 
They said, 'We will serve your God and 
the God of your fathers Abraham, Ish- 
mael and Isaac, one God; to him we sur- 
render' " (see polytheism and atheism; 

The observation that the Qur'an appears 
to consider Jacob a brother of Isaac rather 
than his son (although on other occasions, 
it is clear that this type of confusion has 
not taken place, e.g. Q_ 2:132, "Abraham 
charged his sons with this and Jacob like- 
wise") has become a motif in polemical lit- 
erature. Based on passages "We gave him 
Isaac and Jacob" (q_ 6:84; 19:49; 21:72; 
29:27) and "We gave her the glad tidings of 
Isaac and, after Isaac, Jacob" (q_ 11:71), the 
charge has been laid that there was a mis- 
understanding of the relationship between 
Jacob and Isaac. It is clear, however, that 
later Muslims were not the least bit con- 
fused on the issue, all recognizing that the 
relationship between the two as related in 
the Bible was accurate (Geiger, Judaism and 
Islam, 108-9; Speyer, Erziihlungen, 170-1). 

The biblical renaming of Jacob as Israel 
(thus providing the personal dimension of 
the idea of the "Children of Israel" [q.v.] 
as well as the territorial and tribal; see Gen 


32:28) is likely reflected in the use of 
"Israel" in Q_ 3:93, "All food was lawful to 
the Children of Israel save what Israel for- 
bade for himself (see forbidden; lawful 
and unlawful)" — which probably refers 
to the account of Genesis 32:33 — and in 
o 19:58, "of those we bore with Noah 
(q.v.), and of the seed of Abraham and 
Israel." No further elaboration of this 
name change and its significance in genea- 
logical terms can be noted in the Qur'an. 
When the story of Jacob is retold in the 
"stories of the prophets" literature (qisas 
al-anbiyd'), the account of Jacob and Esau 
receives a good deal of attention even 
though it is unmentioned in the Qur'an 
itself (e.g. Tabari, Ta'nkh, i, 354-60). The 
etymology of the name of Jacob is retold 
in these accounts as an etiological narrative 
that works as well in Arabic as it does in 
Hebrew: Jacob held on to Esau's heel {'aqb 
in Arabic) when the twins were being born, 
although the etymology of Esau as derived 
from "refusing," 'asd, does not produce a 
fully meaningful narrative within the pic- 
ture of their birth (cf. Gen 25:25-6; Ginz- 
berg, Legends, i, 315; v, 274). 

Andrew Rippin 

Primary: Kisa'l, Qisas, 163-7; TabarT, The history 
of al-Taban. ii. Prophets and patriarchs, trans. W.M. 
Brinner, Albany, NY 1987, 134-9, : 48-5°> 167-84; 
id., Ta'nkh, ed. De Goeje, i, 354-60, 372-4, 
393-413; Tha'labl, Qisas, 88-90. 
Secondary: A. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem 

Judentume aufgenommen? Bonn 1838 (Eng. trans. 

Judaism and Islam, Madras 1898); L. Ginzberg, 
The legends oj the Jews, 7 vols., Philadelphia 
1909-36; Horovitz, Jewish proper names in the 
Koran, in Hebrew Union College annual 2 (1925), 
152; id., KU; I. Shapiro, Die haggadischen Elemente 
im erzahlenden Teil des Korans, Berlin 1907; Speyer, 

Jahannam see hell and hellfire 

Jahiliyya see age of ignorance 
Jail see prisoners 
Jalllt see GOLIATH 
Jealousy see envy 


The holy city sacred to Judaism, Christian- 
ity and Islam, Jerusalem (Iliya,', bayt al-maq- 
dis, Urishalayim, al-Quds) is not mentioned 
by name in the Qur'an. As Islam is, how- 
ever, deeply rooted in Judaism and Chris- 
tianity (see jews and Judaism; christians 
and Christianity), many stories with a 
biblical background are undoubtedly situ- 
ated in Jerusalem and some of these stories 
have been included in the holy book of the 
Muslims (see narratives). Further, one 
must bear in mind that the designation bayt 
al-maqdis (lit. "house of the holy," from 
Heb. Bet ha-miqddsh, the Temple), has three 
meanings: first, the Jewish Temple and its 
successor, the Temple Mount (al-haram al- 
shanf) with the Dome of the Rock and the 
Aqsa Mosque (q.v.); second, the city of 
Jerusalem; third, the holy land (al-ard al- 
muqaddasa) as a whole. 

Based on relevant passages in the Qur'an, 
Muslim tradition created an image of Jeru- 
salem that combined Jewish and Christian 
elements with specifically Islamic ones. 
The main sources to be consulted in pre- 
senting this image are the vast corpus of 
Qur'an commentaries [tafsir, see exegesis 

exegesis of the qjur'an: early MODERN 
and contemporary) and the fada'il al- 
Quds ("Virtues of Jerusalem") literature. By 
its very nature, the literary genre of fada'il 
al-Quds is an expression of local pride, 
which explains why the authors active in 


this field found more material in the 
Qur'an in favor of Jerusalem than did the 
qur'anic commentators (mufassimn) . Like- 
wise, they claimed exclusiveness for Jerusa- 
lem in passages for which the mufassimn 
offered a variety of interpretations. 

There are a number of instances in 
which there is general agreement — in 
both commentary (tafsir) and fadd'il- 
literature — that certain qur'anic passages 
allude to Jerusalem, rather than other 
places. This applies, for instance, to the 
identification of "the farthest mosque" (al- 
masjid cd-aqsa) in c) 17:1 with al-Haram al- 
Sharlf injerusalem, which is said to have 
been the destination of Muhammad's 
"night journey" (isra') and the scene of his 
ascension (q.v; mi'raj). It is the site of the 
Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the 
Romans in the year 70 (I.E. and recon- 
structed by the Muslims during the caliph- 
ate of 'Umar b. al-Khattab (r. 13-23/ 
634-44). There is, however, disagreement 
as to whether Muhammad prayed in the 
sanctuary or not. Had he done so, it would 
have been incumbent on Muslims also to 
visit Jerusalem when on the pilgrimage 
(q.v.; hajj) to Mecca (q.v.). Therefore, some 
theologians denied the idea of Muham- 
mad's praying in the sanctuary. According 
to others, however, confirmation of the 
belief in one God (tawhid) was revealed in 
Jerusalem when Muhammad prayed with 
the prophets, his predecessors in office, 
in the sanctuary (see prophets and 
prophethood). General agreement like- 
wise exists regarding the interpretation of 
Q_ 2:142-50, where the change of the direc- 
tion of prayer {qibla, q.v.) is discussed. It 
has been accepted that the direction of 
prayer was Jerusalem before it was 
changed to the Ka'ba (q.v.) in Mecca. 

The setting of many biblical stories in- 
corporated in the Qur'an is Jerusalem or 
the holy land, although the name is not 

explicitly mentioned. Jewish and Christian 
traditions — both apocryphal and 
canonical — such as those about the loca- 
tion of the last judgment (q.v.) injerusa- 
lem, have been adopted by Muslims, 
o 50:41, "And listen for the day when the 
caller will call out from a place quite near 
(min makdnin qanbin)," is said to refer to 
Jerusalem, the "place quite near" being the 
holy rock (al-sakhra) in the al-Haram al- 
Sharlf. The angel Israfil, standing on the 
holy rock, will call the dead to rise from 
their graves (see DEATH AND THE dead; 
resurrection). It is a place appropriate 
for the purpose because it is next to heaven 
(see heaven AND sky). There is, on the 
other hand, an interpretation offered by 
al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144; Kashshdf 
ad loc.) according to which "a place quite 
near" means the feet of the dead or the 
roots of their hair. 

Many other identifications of places are 
not as unequivocal as those just mentioned. 
There are numerous cases in which, in 
accordance with the generally accepted 
exegetical tendency to amass traditional 
interpretations, one or more sites in addi- 
tion to Jerusalem have been proposed; in 
other words, these places compete with 
Jerusalem. Sometimes such competing sites 
are situated in the holy land, including 
Syria (q.v.) and Jordan. A rivalry on a 
higher level, however, is that between Jeru- 
salem and the holy cities of Mecca and 
Medina (q.v.) or between the holy land and 
the rest of the world (see cosmology). 
The latter is present in the interpretation 
of Q_ 7:137, "And we made a people, con- 
sidered weak, inheritors of land (ard) in 
both east and west — land whereupon we 
sent down our blessings (see blessing; 
oppressed on earth, the)." The blessed 
land is Syria or, according to another inter- 
pretation, the whole world, because God 
conferred the kingdom of the world upon 


David (q.v.) and Solomon (q.v.). Q 21:105, 
"Before this we wrote in the Psalms (q.v.; 
al-zabur) after the message (al-dhikr): My 
servants, the righteous, shall inherit the 
earth," is, according to Speyer (Erzahlungen, 
285), the only word-for-word citation of 
the Bible (Ps 37:19; Matt 5:5; see scripture 
and THE qtjr'an). Although it undoubtedly 
refers to the holy land, other interpreta- 
tions have been offered: It means paradise 
(q.v.), which is to be granted to the believ- 
ers (see belief AND unbelief), but also this 
world, the universal kingdom of Islam 
(q.v). The inheritance will come at the end 
of times, when Jesus (q.v.) descends from 
heaven to fight the unbelievers, subjecting 
the whole world to Islamic rule. The deci- 
sive battle will be fought in Jerusalem (see 

More often, Jerusalem competes with 
Mecca, as both are cities, and the holy land 
with the Hijaz. Q_ 17:60, "We granted the 
vision which we showed you," has been 
explained in two ways: It is the vision 
Muhammad had after his return from the 
night journey (ism). When the Quraysh 
(q.v.) called him a liar (see lie; opposition 
to muhammad; insanity), the Prophet 
had a vision of bayt al-maqdis, which en- 
abled him to answer questions that the 
Meccans were asking in order to examine 
the veracity of his story. Another interpre- 
tation is that Muhammad had a vision of 
the forthcoming conquest of Mecca at al- 
Hudaybiya (q.v.), when the Quraysh pre- 
vented him from entering Mecca to offer 
sacrifices at the Ka'ba (see expeditions 
and battles). q_ 2:114, "And who is more 
unjust (see justice and injustice) than he 
who forbids that in places for the worship 
of God, God's name should be celebrated, 
whose zeal is to ruin them?" possibly refers 
to the destruction of the Temple either by 
Nebuchadnezzar or Titus. It has been in- 
terpreted, however, as referring to Mecca 
and the Ka'ba, when the heathens, before 
Muhammad's emigration (q.v; hijra), pre- 

vented him from worshiping at the Ka'ba. 
Another interpretation says that this hap- 
pened at al-Hudaybiya. The olive tree 
(zqytun) mentioned in p_ 95:1, by which an 
oath (see oaths) is sworn, has been ex- 
plained both as meaning what it is, a valu- 
able plant, and as denoting the hill on 
which bayt al-maqdis stands. 

The rivalry between Jerusalem and 
Mecca is also apparent in the question 
about whether it was Isaac (q.v.) or Ishmael 
(q.v.) whom Abraham (q.v.) was ordered to 
slaughter as a sacrifice (q.v). The story is 
recounted in o_ 37:99-111, but the narrative 
leaves open the identity of the potential 
victim. If it was Isaac, Jerusalem would be 
the place of the sacrifice; otherwise, it 
would be Mecca or nearby Mina. Con- 
versely, the account of the building of the 
Ka'ba in o_ 2:125 is in favor of Ishmael, for 
he assisted his father, which proves his 
presence in Mecca. 

Another example of Jerusalem's rivalry 
with Mecca may be found with the inter- 
pretation of the parable of the divine light 
(q.v.) in Q_ 24:35-6. It could be an allusion to 
candles lit in churches and monasteries 
(Paret, Kommentar, 360; see church; 
monasticism AND monks), but another in- 
terpretation exists: the houses (buyut) men- 
tioned in o_ 24:36, in which the light is lit, 
are four structures, all erected by prophets. 
These four are: the Ka'ba, built by Abra- 
ham and Ishmael, bayt al-maqdis built by 
David and Solomon, masjid al-Madma, and 
masjid quba\ both built by Muhammad; 
each can be deemed to be a "mosque (q.v.) 
founded on piety" (p_ 9:108). Here, Jerusa- 
lem is put on a par with the holy places in 
the Hijaz. Al-Razi (d. 606/1210; TafsTr, 
xxiv, 3, ad o_ 24:36), however, cites another 
interpretation in the name of al-Hasan al- 
Basri, who identifies the houses, without 
explaining the plural, with bayt al-maqdis 
because it is illuminated by ten thousand 

Jerusalem competes not only with Mecca, 


but also with the other world: al-sahira 
mentioned in o_ 79-14 is said to be the sur- 
face of the earth to which the dead will 
ascend on the day of resurrection. Some 
commentators define it geographically as 
the plain to the north of Jerusalem on 
which humankind will gather during the 
day of judgment. According to others, it is 
a plain destined for the gathering of the 
unbelievers, causing such fright as to pre- 
vent people from slumbering. Another exe- 
getical tradition explains al-sahira as the 
new earth (al-ard al-jadida), which will 
replace this earth when the world comes 
to an end; and, finally, according to yet 
another understanding, it is hell [jahannam, 
see hell and hellfire). 

Also understood to have both eschatolog- 
ical and this-worldly connotations is the 
wall mentioned in o 57:13: "A wall will be 
put up between them, with a gate therein, 
within it will be mercy (q.v.), and without 
it, all alongside, will be punishment (see 
understood to be the eastern wall of the al- 
Haram al-Sharlf, above Wadl Jahannam 
(the Kedron Valley), the gate is Bab al- 
Rahma, the Gate of Mercy, one of the two 
entrances of the Golden Gate. According 
to some commentators, though, it is the 
partition between paradise and hell, a kind 
of purgatory, the gate where the elect will 
enter paradise (see barzakh; barrier). 
On the day of resurrection those raised 
from the dead will rush to a goal-post 
(nusub), mentioned in o_ 70:43. This is 
understood by some to be the holy rock in 
Jerusalem, but by others to be a signpost 
('alam) to which the believers — or an idol 
to which the polytheists (see IDOLS AND 
images; polytheism and atheism) — will 
rush on the day of judgment. 

Rivalry exists on the local level between 
Jerusalem and other towns of Palestine 
and Syria. The town (al-qarya) mentioned 
in Q_ 2:58, whose gate the Israelites were 
ordered to enter with humility, is identified 

in the exegetical literature as Jerusalem or 
Jericho. When Jericho is mentioned, the 
remark is added that it is located not far 
from Jerusalem. But according to some 
commentators, it is the gate of Cairo or 
Egypt (Misr). Another example: "The one 
who passed by a town, all in ruins to its 
roofs" (p_ 2:259) was either 'Uzayr (identi- 
fied with Ezra, q.v.) or Jeremiah (who 
bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem) or 
the legendary al-Khidr (see khadir/ 
khidr). There are three proposals about 
the name of the town: first, Sabur on the 
Tigris, situated between Wasit and al- 
Mada'in; second, Jerusalem; and third, the 
town of "those who abandoned their 
homes, though they were thousands, for 
fear of death," mentioned in o_ 2:243. 
There are various explanations of the holy 
land (al-ard al-muqaddasa) mentioned in 
o 5:21: It is said to be Jericho, Jordan (al- 
Urdunn), and Palestine, or T ur (Mt. Sinai; 
see sinai) and its surroundings. According 
to others it is al-Sham (Syria or Damascus), 
or simply Jericho. Equally various are the 
locations given for the rabwa (lit. great or 
high place) in o_ 23:50, where Mary (q.v.), 
the mother of Jesus, found shelter with her 
son: the Ghuta (plain) of Damascus, Jeru- 
salem, Ramla, or Egypt, the latter appar- 
ently a reminiscence of the flight of 
Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Egypt (q.v.) as 
told in the Gospels (q.v.). 

The Shl'i viewpoint (see shI'ism and the 
our'an) is especially evident in the various 
interpretations, found in both SunnI and 
Shl'i authors, of Muhammad's vision 
mentioned in o_ 17:60. Al-Mawardl 
(d. 450/1058; Mukat, hi, 253) and al-Tabarsi 
(d. 548/1154; Majma', xv, 66-7), following 
al-Tabari (d. 310/923; Tafsir, xv, 110-3), give 
three interpretations of this vision: the first 
explains it as Muhammad's vision during 
the isrci'; the second, as a vision while 
Muhammad was sleeping (according to 
Ibn Abbas, Muhammad sees himself 
entering Mecca; see dreams and sleep; 


foretelling; visions); and the third, also 
as a vision while sleeping (according to 
Sahl b. Sa'd, the vision is of people like 
donkeys climbing on the pulpits [manabir]). 
While al-Tabarl expresses a preference for 
the first explanation, al-Mawardi gives no 
such opinion. Slrfl exegetes, such as al- 
Tabarsi and al-Tabataba'i (d. 1982; Mukh- 
tasar al-Miz&n), stress that this passage has 
nothing to do with Jerusalem, nor with 
Mecca, but maintain that it refers to future 
events, the misdeeds of the Umayyads who 
deprived the Alids of their legitimate 
claim to the caliphate (see caliph; polit- 
ics and THE qur'an): Muhammad saw 
them climbing on his pulpit, behaving 
like apes. 

Modern commentators such as Rashid 
Rida (Mama), al-Mawdudi (Tafhim), al- 
Zuhayll (Tafsir) and Tifaylib (Fath), present 
the traditional interpretations on many of 
the verses already discussed. After making 
their own positions clear, however, they 
provide events and places in the context of 
the life of Muhammad and the history of 
early Islam in Arabia rather than locating 
these in Jerusalem. To mention but a few 
examples: Those who, according to 
Q 2:114, prevented the pious from visiting 
the sanctuaries, and even tried to ruin 
them, were not Nebuchadnezzar or Titus, 
but the heathens in Mecca before the emi- 
gration (hijra). Rashid Rida, derives the 
protection of synagogues and churches as 
practiced in Islam from Q 2:114 (see 
religious pluralism and the qur'an). 
That Muhammad prayed inside the sanc- 
tuary of bayt al-maqdis during his night 
journey is not contested in principle in 
modern tafsir; it is no longer considered an 
issue of heated debate. The land promised 
to the pious in Q 21:105 is paradise, the wall 
with the gate in Q 57:13 will be put up in 
the other world, and al-sahira in Q 79:14 
belongs to the world to come or remains 
geographically undefined. Generally mod- 

ern tafsir prefers theological interpretation 
and the discussion of problems pertaining 
to the religious law (shari'a) to a consider- 
ation of problems in the history of the holy 
places and their basis in biblical lore (see 
law and the qur'an; history and the 
qur'an; theology and the qur'an). 

Finally, the close relation between Jerusa- 
lem and the Qur'an found expression in 
the enumeration of merits earned by those 
who recite certain suras (see recitation 
of THE qur'an): The person who recites 
Q 29 "The Spider" (Surat al-Ankabuf) will 
receive for each verse the same recom- 
pense as those who conquered Jerusalem, 
and those who recite Q 5 "The Table 
Spread" (Surat al-Ma'ida; see table) and 
Q 30 "The Romans" (Surat al-Rum; see 
Byzantines) will be compensated for each 
verse as those who visit Jerusalem (Firiiza- 
badl, Basa'ir, i, 364, 369). See also sacred 

Hcribert Busse 

Primary (In addition to the commentaries on the 
passages cited above found in the works of tafsir 
from Muqatil b. Sulayman down to modern 
authors): Fazarl, Burhan al-Dln b. al-Firka, Ba'ith 
at-nufus ltd ziyarat al-Quds al-mahrus, trans. Ch.D. 
Matthews, Palestine. Mohammedan holy land, New 
Haven 1949, 1-41; Firuzabadl, Basa'ir; MaqdisI, 
Abu 1-Ma'all al-Musharraf b. al-Murajja, Fada'il 
bayt al-maqdis wa-l-Khalil wa-fadd'il al-Shdm, ed. 
O. Livne-Kafri, Shfaram 1995; MaqdisI, 
Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahid, Fada'il bayt al- 
maqdis, ed. M.M. al-Hafiz, Damascus 1985, 8, 11, 
20, 24, 28; MaqdisI, Shihab al-Dln Abu Mahmiid 
b. Tamlm, Muthir al-ghardm ild zjydrat al-Quds 
wa-l-Shdm, ed. A. al-Khutayml, Beirut 1994; 
Mawardi, Nukat; MawdudT, Fajhim cd-Qur'dn, 
6 vols., Lahore 1949-72; Eng. trans. Fhe meaning 
of the Qiir'dn, Lahore 1967; Rashid Rida, Manar; 
RazI, Tafsir, ed. M. Muhyl 1-Dln, Cairo 1933-62; 
SuyutI, Shams al-Dln Abu c All Muhammad b. 
Ahmad, Ithaj al-akhissd' bi-fadd'il al-masjid al-aqsa, 
ed. A. Ramadan Ahmad, Cairo 1984; Tabarl, 
Tafsir, ed. Shakir; TabarsI, Alajma'; Tabataba% 
Mukhtasar al-MTzdn; TVaylib, c Abd al-Mun'im 
Ahmad, Fath al-rahmdn fi tafsir al-Qur'dn, 7 vols., 


Cairo 1995; £ UlaymT, Mujlr al-Dln Abu 1-Yaman 
c Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad, al-Uns al-jalil 
bi-tarikh al-Quds wa-l-Khalil, Amman 1973, i, 
226-7; WasitT, Muhammad b. Ahmad, Fada'il al- 
bayt al-muqaddas, ed. I. Hasson, Jerusalem 1979; 
ZamakhsharT, Kashshbf; al-Zuhayll, Wahba, al- 
TafsTr al-wajiz wa-ma'ahu asbab al-nuzul wa-qawa'id 
al-tartil c ala hdmish al- Qur'an al-kanm, Damascus 

J 995- 

Secondary: H. Busse, Bab Hitta. Qur'an 2:58 
and the entry into Jerusalem, in jsai 22 (1998}, 
1-17; id., Jerusalem in the story of Muhammad's 
night journey and ascension, mjSAl 14 (1991), 
1-40; C. Gilliot, Goran 17, Isra\ 1, dans la 
recherche occidentale. De la critique des tradi- 
tions du Coran comme texte, in M.A. Amir- 
Moezzi (ed.), he voyage intiatique en terre d'Islam. 
Ascensions celestes et itineraires spirituels, Paris 1996, 
1-26; I. Hasson, The Muslim view of Jerusalem. 
The Qur'an and hadlth, in J. Prawer and 
H. Ben-Shammai (eds.), The history of Jerusalem. 
The early Muslim, period. 638-1099, New York 1996, 
349-85; A. Kaplony, The Haram of Jerusalem 
324-iogg. Temple, Friday Mosque, area of spiritual- 
power, Stuttgart 2002; A. Neuwirth, From the 
Sacred Mosque to the Remote Temple. Surat al- 
Isra' between text and commentary, inJ.D. 
McAuliffe, B.D. Walfish and J.W. Goering (eds.), 
With reverence for the word. Medieval scriptural exegesis 
in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, New York 2003, 
376-407; Paret, Kommentar; Speyer, Erzdhlungen. 

Jest s 

see laughter; mockery 


The first-century Jewish teacher and won- 
der worker believed by Christians to be the 
Son of God, he is named in the Qur'an as 
one of the prophets before Muhammad 
who came with a scripture (see book; 
AND prophethood). The qur'anic form of 
Jesus' name is c Isa. It is attested twenty-five 
times, often in the form c Isa b. Maryam, 
Jesus son of Mary. The Qur'an asserts that 
he was a prophet and gives him the unique 
title "the Messiah" (see anointing). It 
affirms his virginal conception (see MARY; 
holy spirit); cites miracles which he 

performed by divine permission (see 
miracle); and states that God raised him 
into his presence. It probably also alludes 
to his future return. It denies, however, 
that he was divine (as noted, one of his 
qur'anic identifications is as the "son of 
Mary"; see below for further discussion of 
this title) and attaches no significance to 
the cross. As traditionally interpreted by 
Muslims, it also denies that he was cruci- 
fied (see crucifixion). 

Inventory of the qur'anic Jesus material 
The relevant passages are listed here in 
chronological order in accordance with 
Nbldeke's classification (see chronology 
and THE qjjr'an). For the sake of compari- 
son, the order implied by the headings of 
the standard Egyptian edition of the 
Qur'an is also given (see Robinson, Discov- 
ering, 72-96). For example N 58/E 44 indi- 
cates that according to Noldeke the sura in 
question was the fifty-eighth revealed but 
that it was the forty-fourth according to the 
standard Egyptian edition: a 19:16-40, 

88-95 (N 58/E 44); ft 43:57-65, 8i- 2 
(N 6i/e 109); a 23:50 (N 64/E 74); 

o 21:91-93 (N 65/E 73); rj 42:13-14 (N 83/ 
E 86); a 6:83-90 (N 89/E 55); a 2:87, 
l "ib-H l , 252-253 (N 91/E 87); a 3:42-64, 

81-85 (N 97/E 89); a 337-8 (N 103/E 90); 

0, 4 :i 56-i59> 163-165, 171-172 (N 100/E 92); 
a 57:26-27 (N 99/E 94); a 66:10-12 (N 109/ 
E 107); a 61:6, 14 (N 98/E iog); a b'- 1 !- 1 ^, 
46-47, 72-78, 109-118 (N 114/E 112); 
a 9:30-31 (N113/E 113). 

There is widespread agreement that the 
first six passages cited above (i.e. those 
down to and including a 6:83-90) were 
revealed in Mecca and the others in 
Medina. The chronological order, however, 
is only approximate and some of the ear- 
lier suras have almost certainly been 
revised. The dating of the passages in a 19 
is particularly problematic. There is a tra- 
dition that the Muslims who emigrated to 



Abyssinia (q.v.) recited part of this sura to 
the Negus (Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume, 150-3) 
which would make it quite early (see 
emigration). In any case, the reference 
in Q_ 19:17 to an angel (q.v.), 'our spirit,' 
appearing in visible form strongly suggests 
that the sura is Meccan. Moreover, Q_ 43:57 
implies that the Prophet's audience had 
already heard an extensive revelation 
about "the son of Mary" and Q_ 23:50 
probably alludes to a specific element in 
this particular version of his story (cf. 
o 19:22-6). Q_ 19:34-40, however, which has 
a different rhyme from the rest of the sura 
our'an), was almost certainly added later 
and the references to "the book" (p_ 19:12, 
16, 30, etc.) are probably late Meccan or 
early Medinan. 

The name 'Isa, its origin and significance 
The name "Jesus" ('Isa) occurs twenty-five 
times: nine times by itself (o_ 2:136; 3:52, 55, 
59, 84; 4:163; 6:85; 42:13; 43:63) and six- 
teen times in conjunction with one or more 
other names or titles (q_ 2:87, 253; 3:45; 

4 :i 57> W> 5 : 4 6 , 7 8 > II0 > II2 > :I 4. Il6 ; i9 : 34; 
33:7; 57:27; 61:6, 14). It was probably 
absent from the original version of 
19:16-40 and it is not found in suras 23 
or 61, but it is attested in the other twelve 
suras listed above. 

The qur'anic spelling of Jesus' name is 
strikingly different from any currently used 
by Christians. The English form "Jesus" is 
derived from the Latin Iesus which in turn 
is based on the Greek lesous. It is generally 
held, however, that because Jesus was a 
Palestinian Jew, his original name must 
have been Hebrew and that the Greek 
lesous represents the Hebrew Yeshua' which 
is an abbreviated form of Y'hoshua ' (or 
Y'hoshua'). The original meaning of Y'ho- 
shua ' was "Yahweh helps" but it was popu- 
larly understood to mean, "Yahweh saves." 
When the New Testament was translated 

from Greek into Syriac, lesous was ren- 
dered Yeshu', although Syriac-speaking 
Nestorian Christians called him Ishu'. After 
the rise of Islam, the gospels (q.v.) were 
eventually translated from Syriac into Ara- 
bic and Yeshu' was rendered YasW, which is 
what Arab Christians call Jesus to this day. 

The grounds for thinking that Jesus' orig- 
inal name was Yeshua' are: 1) The Hebrew 
scriptures mention several people called 
Y'hoshua', Y'hoshua' or leshua', including 
Moses' successor Joshua son of Nun whose 
name is spelled in all three ways. In the 
Septuagint, these names are almost invari- 
ably rendered as lesous (Brown et al., 
Hebrew and English lexicon, 221). 2) By the 
first century, only the short form Yeshua ' 
was in use. 3) The New Testament refers to 
Moses' successor, Joshua, in Acts 7:45 and 
Hebrews 4:8, and in both instances it gives 
his name in Greek as lesous. 4) According 
to Matthew 1:21, an angel told Joseph in a 
dream that Mary would have a son, and 
added "Thou shalt call his name Jesus for 
it is he who shall save his people from their 
sins." As there is no play-on-words in the 
Greek, Matthew's readers were presum- 
ably familiar with the original Hebrew 
name and its etymology. 

Western scholars, because of their con- 
viction that Jesus' authentic Hebrew name 
is Yeshua', have been puzzled by the 
Qur'an's reference to him as 'Isa. They 
have offered a number of explanations for 
this apparent anomaly. One suggestion is 
that y-sh-\ the Hebrew consonants of 
Yeshua ', have been reversed for some cryp- 
tic reason to give '-s-j, the Arabic conso- 
nants of 'Isa. Those who favor this view 
note that in ancient Mesopotamia certain 
divine names were written in one way and 
pronounced in another; for example 
EN-ZU was read ZU-EN (Michaud, Jesus, 
15). Scarcely more plausible is the sugges- 
tion that the Jews calledjesus "Esau" 
(Hebrew 'Esaw) out of hatred and that 


Muhammad learned this name from them 
not realizing that it was an insult (see JEWS 
language). Admittedly, in Arabic Esau is 
usually written 'Isu and this might have 
been changed into 'Isa in order to assimi- 
late it to other qur'anic names ending in -a. 
There is no evidence, however, that the 
Jews have ever called Jesus Esau. Moreover, 
the Qur'an criticizes them for insulting 
Jesus' mother (q_ 4:156), and Muhammad's 
many Christian acquaintances would 
surely have corrected him if he had unwit- 
tingly adopted a Jewish insult againstjesus 
himself. A third suggestion is that Jesus' 
name has been altered deliberately to 
assimilate it to Mflsa (Moses, q.v.), with 
whom he is sometimes paired. There may 
be other examples of this phenomenon in 
the Qur'an, for instance, Saul (q.v.) and 
Goliath (q.v.) are called T^ult and Jalut, 
Aaron (q.v.) and Korah (q.v.) are called 
HarCm and Qarun. A fourth suggestion is 
that, already before the rise of Islam, 
Christians in Arabia may have coined the 
name 'Isa from one of the Syriac forms 
YeshW or Ishti'. Arabic often employs an ini- 
tial 'ayn in words borrowed from Aramaic 
or Syriac and the dropping of the final 
Hebrew 'ayin is evidenced in the form 
Yisho of the "koktiirkish" Manichaean 
fragments from Turfan ( Jefferey, For. 
vocab., 220; see foreign vocabulary). 
Although there is no irrefutable evidence 
that the name 'Isa. was in use in pre- 
Islamic times (see pre-islamic Arabia 
and THE qjjr'an), there was a monastery 
in Syria which may have been known as 
the 'Isaniyya as early as 571 c.E. (Min- 
gana, Syriac influence, 84; see syriac 
and the qur'an; monasticism and 

While many Muslim scholars entertain 
the possibility that the qur'anic form of 
Jesus' name reflects the usage of certain 
Christians in Muhammad's milieu, others 

maintain that 'Isa was, in fact, the original 
form of Jesus' name. Sarwat Anis al- 
Assiouty (Jesus, 1 10-19) champions this 
view. Among the arguments which he 
adduces, the following merit consideration: 

1) If Jesus' original name had been 
Yeshua ', the final 'ayin would have been 
retained in Aramaic sources which men- 
tion him. In the Talmud, however, he is 
called Yeshu. 

2) In Matthew 1:21, the angel states that it 
is Jesus himself, not Yahweh, who will save 
his people. Thus, far from supporting the 
derivation of lesous from Yeshua', this bibli- 
cal verse militates against it. 

3) Josephus used the Greek name lesous to 
denote three people mentioned in the Bible 
whose Hebrew names were not Yeshua', 
Y'hoshua' or Y'hoshua'. They were Saul's son 
Yishwi (Anglicized as "Ishvi" in the RSV of 
I Samuel 14:49), the Levhe AbTshua' (men- 
tioned in I Chronicles 6:4, etc.) and Yish- 
wah the son of Asher (Anglicized as 
"Ishva" in the RSV of Genesis 46:17). 

4) Around the middle of the second cen- 
tury, Justin Martyr penned his famous Dia- 
logue with Trypho the Jew. Justin, a Christian 
who wrote in Greek and knew no Hebrew, 
argued at length that the Old Testament 
story of Joshua should be interpreted typo- 
logically as referring to Jesus. Under his 
influence, most Christians subsequently 
assumed that Jesus' Hebrew name must 
have been the same as Joshua's. 

5) Jesus' name should be derived ulti- 
mately from the Hebrew verb 'asa, "to do," 
which also means "to bring about" in the 
sense of effecting a deliverance. This ety- 
mology would make better sense of Mat- 
thew 1:21 than the assumption that his 
Hebrew name was Yeshua '. Moreover, in 
the first centuries of the Christian era, 
Nabatean pilgrims inscribed the name 's 
on rocks in the region of Sinai, and the 
name is also found in inscriptions in south- 
ern Arabia and the region between Syria 


(q.v.) and Jordan (see archaeology and 
the qjur'an). 

None of al-Assiouty's arguments is deci- 
sive and some of them are unsound. The 
Talmudic Teshu may be a deliberate defor- 
mation of Jesus' name to ensure that his 
memory would be blotted out. Matthew 
1:21 should be read in conjunction with 
Matthew 1:23, where Jesus is identified as 
Emmanuel, "God with us"; from the evan- 
gelist's viewpoint, therefore, it would have 
been entirely appropriate for his name to 
mean "Yahweh saves." Although Josephus 
furnishes important evidence for the wide 
variety of Hebrew names represented in 
Greek by Iesous, it is noteworthy that none 
of these names begins with an 'ayin. Justin 
Martyr elaborated the Joshua/Jesus typol- 
ogy but he did not invent it; it was already 
implicit in Hebrews 4:8. It is true that the 
Hebrew verb 'asa, "to do," can mean "to 
bring about" in the sense of effecting a 
deliverance. In biblical passages where it 
has this latter meaning, however, the sub- 
ject is invariably Yahweh (Brown et al., 
Hebrew and English lexicon, 795). Moreover, 
as the verb is not Aramaic and is not cer- 
tainly found in south Semitic languages 
(ibid., 793) it is not relevant to the interpre- 
tation of the pre-Islamic inscriptions which 
the author mentions. 

According to al-Raghib al-Isfaham (fl. 
fifth/eleventh cent.), some authorities took 
'Isa to be an Arabic name and derived it 
from 'ays, "a stallion's urine" ( Jefferey, For. 
vocab., 219). As urine was used to bleach 
clothes, this bizarre suggestion probably 
arose among interpreters who were famil- 
iar with the tradition that Jesus' disciples 
were fullers. The Lisan al- 'Arab mentions 
two other Arabic derivations: from 'ayas, "a 
reddish whiteness," or from 'aws, the verbal 
noun of 'awasa, "to roam about." The for- 
mer should perhaps be explained in the 
light of the hadith (see hadith and the 

q_ur'an) in which the Prophet describes 
Jesus as "ruddy (ahmar) as if he had just 
come from the bath." The latter is proba- 
bly linked with attempts to derive Jesus' 
title al-Maslh from masaha, "to pace" or "to 
survey." T a bataba'l (d. 1982) favors a tradi- 
tion which derives 'Isa iroraya'Tsh, "he 
lives," because the name of Zechariah's 
(q.v.) son, Yahya (John; see JOHN THE 
baptist), likewise has this meaning, and 
because in Q_ 3 the two births are an- 
nounced in similar fashion. Nevertheless, 
several classical philologists thought that 
'Isa was a Hebrew or Syriac name that 
had been Arabicized and this view was 
endorsed by a number of classical com- 
mentators (for a recent analysis in which a 
misreading of the unpointed Arabic is sug- 
gested, see Bellamy, Textual criticism, 6; 
see Arabic language; arabic script; 


By way of conclusion, it is worth sum- 
marizing the salient features of the debate 
about the origins of the qur'anic form of 
Jesus' name. It is not certain that Jesus' 
original name was Teshua'. The view that it 
was, and that it connoted that he was the 
Savior, cannot be traced back to earlier 
than around 80 c.E., the time when He- 
brews and Matthew were written. In any 
case, 'Isa, the qur'anic form of his name, 
has no such connotations. The attempts to 
derive that form from an Arabic root are, 
however, far-fetched and show, if anything, 
that it had no obvious associations for the 
native speaker of Arabic. It is just possible 
that 'Isa, was actually Jesus' original name, 
although it seems more likely that it is an 
Arabicized form of the name current 
among Syriac-speaking Christians as was 
recognized by a number of classical 
authorities. This Arabicized form may be 
pre-Islamic but there is no compelling evi- 
dence that it is. Nor are there grounds for 
thinking that its purpose is polemical. 


References to Jesus as "the son of Mary" and "the 

The expression "the son of Mary" is 
attested twenty-three times. By itself, it 
occurs in only two Meccan verses: Q_ 43-57 
and Q_ 23:50. In the other instances, which 
are all M edinan, it is invariably preceded 
by "Jesus," "the Messiah" or "the Messiah 

An Arabic name (ism) is often followed 
by a familial attribution (nasabj, "the son 
of X." Moreover, the nasab may also be 
employed in isolation. Thus as regards its 
position, form and employment, "the son 
of Mary" resembles a nasab. In a nasab, 
however, X is normally the name of the 
person's father. Very occasionally, one 
encounters a nasab in which X denotes the 
person's mother; for example, "the son of 
the Byzantine woman," "the son of the 
blue-eyed woman," or "the son of the 
daughter of al-A ( azz" (Schimmel, Islamic 
names, 9). Note, however, that in these 
examples X is not the mother's name but a 
nasab indicating her place of origin, a nick- 
name drawing attention to one of her dis- 
tinguishing features or her own nasab. This 
last type of nasab is employed when the 
maternal family is more distinguished than 
the paternal line: for instance the A'azz in 
the above-mentioned example was a vizier. 

Because there is no exact parallel to the 
expression "the son of Mary," its origin 
and significance are disputed. It is attested 
only once in the New Testament, in Mark 
6:3, where Jesus' townsfolk say, "Is not this 
the carpenter the son of Mary?" Some 
interpreters think this biblical passage 
merely implies that Mary was a widow 
whereas others detect an insult: a hint that 
Jesus was perhaps illegitimate. Neither 
explanation suits the qur'anic context 
because Joseph is not mentioned in the 
Qur'an, and among the Arabs an illegiti- 
mate child was called Ibn Abihi, "son of 

his father." Nor need it be supposed that 
the Qur'an imitated the usage of the Ethi- 
opic church (pace Bishop, The son of 
Mary) for it is unlikely that Ethiopian 
Christians called Jesus "the son of Mary" 
(Parrinder, Jesus, 25-6) and although the 
Qur'an contains a number of Ethiopic 
loan words they occur mostly in Medinan 
suras. In the opinion of the present writer, 
during the Meccan period the expression 
was used merely for ease of reference. 
Bearing in mind that in the earliest refer- 
ence to Jesus (p_ 19:16-33) the principal 
character was Mary, with Jesus figuring as 
her unnamed child, the brief allusions to 
Jesus as Mary's son in the subsequent reve- 
lations concerning Jesus (those in Q_ 43 and 
23) are entirely understandable. In the 
Medinan period, however, many of the 
revelations about Jesus were concerned 
with countering Christian claims about 
him. Hence, the expression "the son of 
Mary" took on polemical overtones; it was 
an implicit reminder that Jesus is not the 
son of God as the Christians allege (also, 
some suggest implausibly a reflection of 
Trinitarian doctrines with Mary as the 
mother of God; see trinity). The classical 
commentators do not distinguish between 
the Meccan and Medinan usage. They 
interpret the expression as a counter-thrust 
to Christian claims but also regard it as an 
honorific title because of the high status 
that the Qur'an ascribes to Mary (see 

The term "the Messiah" (al-Maslh) is 
attested eleven times and is found only in 
Medinan revelations. It occurs by itself 
three times; followed by "the son of Mary" 
five times; and followed by "Jesus the son 
of Mary" three times. There can be little 
doubt that it is derived ultimately from the 
Hebrew Mashmh, which means "anointed" 
or "Messiah." In ancient Israel, kings and 
priests were consecrated by anointing their 


heads with oil. After the Babylonian exile, 
there arose in some circles expectations 
of a future ideal Davidic ruler, God's 
anointed par excellence, an eschatological 
figure who would usher in an age of peace. 
Whereas the Jews maintain that this Mes- 
siah is yet to come, Christians claim that 
Jesus had this God-given role and that he 
was wrongly killed but will return in glory. 
In the Greek New Testament, Messias, the 
Hellenized transliteration of the Hebrew 
word, occurs only twice (John 1:41; 4:25). 
The New Testament writers showed a 
marked preference for the literal Greek 
translation Christos, "Christ." According to 
one tradition, Jesus was instituted as the 
Messiah when God anointed (echrisen) him 
with the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Acts 
10:38; cf. Luke 1:15-22; 4:17-21). He is, how- 
ever, frequently referred to as Iesous Christos, 
"Jesus Christ," or Christos Iesous, "Christ 
Jesus," almost as if Christos were an addi- 
tional name rather than a title. 

Arabic lexicographers regarded al-Maslh 
as a laqab, or nickname, and attempted to 
give it an Arabic etymology. Al-Firuzabadl 
(d. 817/1415) claimed to have heard no less 
than fifty-six explanations of this sort 
(Lane, 2714). Only those most frequently 
encountered in the classical commentaries 
will be mentioned here. It was widely held 
that it was derived from the verb masaha, 
which occurs five times in the Qur'an: four 
times in instructions on performing ablu- 
tions by "wiping" various parts of the body 
with water (q_ 5:6) or clean earth (q_ 4:43; 
ritual purity) and once in a reference to 
Solomon's (q.v.) "stroking" his horses 
(q 38:33). Most of those who took this line 
thought that masih was an adjective with 
the force of a passive participle and meant 
"touched" or "anointed." They variously 
suggested that Jesus was given this nick- 
name because he was touched by Gabriel's 
(q.v.) wing at birth to protect him from 

Satan (see devil); because he was anointed 
with oil, as were all the prophets; or be- 
cause he was anointed with God's blessing 
(q.v.; cf. Q_ 19:31). Others held that masih 
was an adjective with the force of an active 
participle. They claimed that he was given 
the nickname because he laid hands on the 
sick and healed them (see ILLNESS and 
health); or because he washed men from 
their faults and sins (see SIN, major and 
minor). This last explanation was generally 
frowned on because the Quran insists on 
individual responsibility and denies that a 
person can count on anyone but God to 
save him (o_ 2:286; 6:70; see forgiveness; 
intercession; freedom and predes- 
tination; salvation). Finally, there were 
those who maintained that although masih 
had the force of an active participle it was 
derived not from masaha but from saha, a 
verb meaning to travel about in the cause 
of religion (q_ 9:2; see journey) and hence 
to be devout (q_ 9:112; 66:5; see also 
fasting). They alleged that Jesus received 
this nickname because of his itinerant life- 
style (see further Amaldez, Jesus fits de 
Marie, 84-7). 

The explanation why the lexicographers 
exercised such ingenuity in trying to 
account for the qur'anic term, and why 
they put forward such diverse explanations, 
is that a laqab may be bestowed for a whole 
range of reasons. There are laqabs that are 
honorific titles but there are others that 
merely indicate a person's trade or physical 
characteristics so as to help identify him. 
Despite the -prima facie plausibility of the 
etymologies mentioned above, however, it 
should be noted that those which seem to 
indicate qualities that Jesus shared with 
other prophets do not do justice to the fact 
that he alone is called al-Maslh in the 
Qur'an. It seems likely that the first hearers 
of the revelations would have been aware 
that al-Maslh was a dignified title which 
the Christians held was uniquely applica- 



ble to Jesus. Nevertheless, the qur'anic title 
does not have precisely the same connota- 
tions as "Messiah" or "Christ" in the New 
Testament. Several of the New Testament 
writers stressed that Jesus was the Davidic 
Messiah, and two of them furnished gene- 
alogies tracing his "descent" from David 
through Joseph, despite the fact that they 
apparently believed in the virginal concep- 
tion (Matthew 1:1-16, Luke 3:23-8). In the 
Qur'an, on the other hand, the link 
between Jesus and David (q.v.) is tenuous 
(q_ 5:78); Mary's betrothal to Joseph is not 
mentioned; and what is stressed is Jesus' 
descent from Adam (see ADAM AND eve) 
via Noah (q.v.), Abraham (q.v.), 'Imran 
(q.v.) and Mary (o_ 3:33-45). 

Jesus' conception and infancy and the description 

of him as "word" and "spirit" 
In Q_ ig God recounts that, while Mary was 
in seclusion, he sent his spirit to her in the 
form of a man who announced that, 
despite being a virgin, she would conceive 
a boy-child by divine decree (p_ ig:i6-2i); 
that she conceived and withdrew to a 
remote place where her labor pains drove 
her in despair to the trunk of a palm tree 
(g_ 19:22-3; see DATE palm); that after she 
had given birth, her baby told her to 
refresh herself from the ripe dates and a 
stream which God had miraculously pro- 
vided (q_ 19:24-6); and that when she 
returned to her people he spoke up in her 
defense (o 19:27-33). Q_ 3 includes a similar 
account of the annunciation (o_ 3:42-7), 
although here God's agent is described as 
"the angels." Q_ 3 and 5 both allude to 
Jesus' speaking in the cradle (o_ 3:46; 5:110). 

In the biblical version of the annuncia- 
tion, God's agent is named as Gabriel 
rather than the spirit (q.v.; Luke 1:26). 
Some Christians, however, may have 
regarded them as identical on the basis of 
Tatian's gospel harmony, the Diatesseron, in 
which Luke's account of the annunciation 

is followed immediately by Matthew's 
report of how Mary was found to be with 
child by the Holy Spirit. The miracle of 
the palm tree and the stream is mentioned 
in the Latin Gospel of pseudo-Matthew; and, 
according to the Arabic infancy gospel Jesus 
spoke while still a child in the cradle. 
Although these two apocryphal writings 
post-date the rise of Islam, Christians in 
Muhammad's audience were probably 
familiar with the episodes to which they 
refer. The Quran's reference to Mary's 
labor pains, on the other hand, may have 
been intended to counter the Christian 
belief in Jesus' divinity and Mary's perpe- 
tual virginity. 

Most commentators identify the spirit 
who was sent to Mary as Gabriel, on the 
grounds that both designations appear to 
be used interchangeably elsewhere for the 
revelatory angel (o_ 2:97; 16:102; 26:193; see 
(Versuch, 36-46) claims that the Qur'an 
regards Gabriel as Jesus' father. This inter- 
pretation can be ruled out because the 
Qur'an defends Mary against the charge 
of unchastity (q_ 4:156; see chastity), 
although some of the classical commenta- 
tors suggest that the effect of Gabriel's 
sudden appearance in human form was 
to arouse Mary's desire, as in an erotic 
dream, and thereby facilitate the descent of 
the maternal fluid into her womb (Robin- 
son, Christ, 161, 187). 

In o_ 23:50, God states that he set the son 
of Mary and his mother as a sign (see 
signs) and that he sheltered them on a hill- 
top "where there was both a cool place and 
a spring" (dhdti qararin wa-ma'Tnin) . The sug- 
gestion made by some Christian authors 
that this is an allusion to the assumption of 
Mary which allegedly took place on a hill 
in Ephesus, is wide of the mark. The verse 
seems rather to refer back to the circum- 
stances surrounding Jesus' birth, which 
were mentioned in Q_ 19 where Mary was 


instructed to drink from a stream that 
appeared miraculously (o 19:24-6; see 
springs and fountains). There is even a 
verbal echo of the infant Jesus' words to 
her, "refresh yourself," literally "cool your 
eye" [qarri 'aynan, p_ 19:26). Other verses in 
q 23 deny that God has taken a son 
(q 23:91) and warn against appealing to 
another deity beside him (q 23:117). It is 
clear therefore that neither Jesus nor Mary 
is to be regarded as a divine being. To- 
gether, however, they constitute a "sign:" 
probably a reference to the virginal con- 
ception, which, like the miraculous cre- 
ation (q.v.) of the first man, points to 
God's power to raise the dead (compare 
Q_ 23:12-6; see DEATH AND THE DEAD; 

Q_ 21:91-3 alludes to Mary and her son 
without naming them. Here, too, they are 
said to constitute a sign. The only new ele- 
ment is God's statement that she "guarded 
her chastity (farjaha, literally, her opening) 
so we breathed into her (fiha) of our spirit" 
(q_ 21:91). An almost identical statement 
occurs in q 66:12, the only difference being 
that there God says that he breathed "into 
it" (Jihi), "it" presumably being Mury'sjarj. 
In both instances, the probable reference is 
to God's creating life in her womb without 
her having sexual intercourse. Similar lan- 
guage is used elsewhere to describe how he 
gave life to the first man (q 15:29; 32:9; 
38:72). Some of the classical commenta- 
tors, however, assumed that "our spirit" in 
Q_ 21:91 and 66:12 denoted Gabriel, as in 
O 19:17. They therefore reasoned that 
Mary literally "guarded her opening" from 
Gabriel on the specific occasion of the 
annunciation and debated whether the ref- 
erence was to her vulva (the usual meaning 
offarj) or to an aperture in her clothing. 
They cited reports alleging that she con- 
ceived after he blew up her skirt, down the 

neck of her chemise, into her sleeve or into 
her mouth (Robinson, Fakhr al-Din, 15). 

There are two Medinan verses which 
clearly state that Jesus is God's word (see 
WORD of god), namely q 3:45 and q 4:171. 
Moreover, it is sometimes held that o 3:39 
and 19:34 (a Medinan passage in q 19) also 
imply this. As the context of these verses is 
Jesus' conception, birth and infancy, it is 
appropriate to discuss them at this point. 
Christian apologists often argue that they 
echo the teaching of John's Gospel, which 
states that God's divine Word (logos), which 
was with him in the beginning and through 
whom he created all things, became flesh 
injesus Christ (John 1:1-18). We shall see, 
however, that although the Qur'an calls 
Jesus "a word from God" it does not 
endorse the orthodox Christian view that 
he was the incarnation of a pre-existent 
divine hypostasis. 

q 3:39 recalls that the angels announced 
to Zechariah the good news (q.v.) of the 
forthcoming birth of John, who would 
"confirm the truth of a word from God." 
Arabic does not distinguish between upper 
and lower case letters, but as kalima lacks 
the definite article it should probably be 
rendered "word" rather than "Word." The 
classical commentators generally assumed 
that the "word" in question was Jesus. 
They cited a number of traditions in sup- 
port of this, including one from Ibn 
Abbas, which relates how John bowed 
down in reverence before Jesus when they 
were both babes in their mothers' wombs. 
Although some of the early philologists 
argued that in this context kalima denotes a 
"book" or "scripture," the traditional inter- 
pretation is preferable in view of q 3:45, 
which recalls how the angels told Mary: 
"God announces to you good news of a 
word from him; his name will be the Mes- 
siah Jesus son of Mary " Here kalima 

clearly refers to Jesus and, as the anmmcia- 

l 5 


tion to Mary is the structural homologue of 
the earlier annunciation to Zechariah, it 
seems likely that kalima refers to Jesus there 
as well. Nevertheless, it should be noted 
that, whereas kalima is a feminine noun, the 
pronominal suffix attached to "name" is 
masculine. Thus the name "the Messiah 
Jesus son of Mary" is attributed to the 
male person indicated by the word, rather 
than to the word itself. Elsewhere in the 
Quran kalima usually denotes a divine 
decree, and this seems also to be the case 
here. The classical commentators argued 
convincingly that Jesus is called a "word" 
primarily because, as was also the case 
with Adam, God brought him into exist- 
ence merely by uttering the command 
"Be!" as is stated a few verses later in 
q_ 3:59 (see cosmology). 

q_ 4:171 is more overtly polemical. The 
People of the Book (q.v.) are ordered not to 
exaggerate in their religion and to speak 
nothing except the truth about God. The 
Messiah Jesus son of Mary was only God's 
envoy (see messenger) and "his word 
which he cast unto Mary" and a spirit from 
him. Here, Jesus and the "word" are even 
more closely associated because the verb 
"cast" is followed by the redundant femi- 
nine object pronoun. Nevertheless, as there 
is no suggestion that Jesus was God's sole 
envoy and, as "spirit" is indefinite, "his 
word" should probably be construed as "a 
word of his," without any implication of 
uniqueness. In any case, the polemical con- 
text and the insistence that Jesus is only an 
envoy, word and spirit, should caution 
Christian apologists from interpreting 
kalima in the light of orthodox Christian 
logos theology. 

Q_ 19:34 contains the word qawl, which 
can mean either "word" or "statement." 
Two of the seven readers (see readings of 
the qjjr'an), Asim in Ktifa and Ibn 'Amir 
in Damascus, vocalized the crucial expres- 

sion as qawla l-haqqi, giving qawl an accusa- 
tive ending. This is the reading found in 
Flugel's text and in the standard Egyptian 
edition of the Quran, which are the basis 
of most English translations. If it is 
accepted, the expression introduces an 
exclamation and the verse should be ren- 
dered: "That is Jesus son of Mary — state- 
ment of the truth concerning which they 
are in doubt!" In which case, "statement of 
the truth" simply refers to the previous 
story and has no bearing on the qur'anic 
teaching about Jesus as a word from God. 
The other five readers, however, favored 
qawlu l-haqqi, with qawl in the nominative. 
This reading, which may well be the more 
original, can be construed in two ways: 
either as the predicate of a sentence whose 
subject has been omitted, namely "[It is] a 
statement of the truth" or as a nominal 
phrase in apposition to Jesus, namely 
"Word of Truth." In view of the fact that 
this verse is part of a highly polemical 
Medinan addition to the sura and that the 
next verse denies that God has taken a son, 
the former interpretation seems the more 

The understanding of Jesus as God's 
word in the minimalist sense that he was 
brought into existence by God's command 
is in line with the teaching of the Nestorian 
Christians (O'Shaugnessy Word, 24) as is 
the Qur'an's stress on the similarity of the 
virginal conception and the creation of 
Adam (Robinson, Christ, 156-7). The state- 
ment that he was both a word and a 
"spirit" (ruh) from God (q_ 4:171) is more 
difficult to interpret in view of the range of 
meanings ascribed to spirit in the Qur'an. 
It may, however, reflect a thought-world 
akin to that of Psalm 33:6, where God's 
creative word and breath (Hebrew ruacK) 
are treated as synonyms because an utter- 
ance is invariably accompanied by out- 



His status and mission 
The Qur'an emphatically denies that Jesus 
was God, a subsidiary deity or the son of 
God (e.g. o_ 5:17, 72, 116; 9:30; see poly- 
theism and atheism). He was merely a 
"servant" (q.v.) of God (£4:172; 19:30; 
43:59) and was required to pray and to pay 
alms (zakat, o_ 19:31; see almsgiving; 
prayer). He and his mother needed to eat 
food (rj 5:75; see food and drink) and 
God could destroy them both if he wished 
(o_ 5:17). He was nonetheless a "mercy (q.v.) 
from God" (rj 19:21), a "prophet" (nabi, 
o 19:30) and an "envoy" (rasul, Q_ 3:49, 53; 
4:171; 5:75, 61:6), "eminent" in this world 
and the hereafter (see eschatology) and 
"one of those brought near" (q_ 3:45). 

Although Jesus was a sign for humanity as 
a whole (q_ 19:21), his specific mission was 
to the Children of Israel (q.v.; e.g. Q_ 3:49; 
43:59). God taught him the Torah (q.v.) 
and the Gospel (q_ 3:48; 5:110) and sup- 
ported him with the Holy Spirit (p_ 2:87, 
253; 5:110) — possibly an allusion to his 
baptism (q.v.) but most commentators 
assume that the reference is to Gabriel. 
Jesus attested the truth of what was in the 
Torah (q_ 3:50; 5:46; 61:6); made lawful 
some of the things that were forbidden to 
the Children of Israel in his day (o_ 3:50; 
see lawful and unlawful; forbidden); 
clarified some of the things that they dis- 
agreed about (o_ 43:63); and urged them to 
worship God alone (e.g. Q_ 5:117). Like 
David before him, he cursed those of his 
people who disbelieved (o_ 5:78). 

He is credited with a number of miracles 
including creating birds from clay; healing 
a blind person and a leper; raising the 
dead; and telling the Children of Israel 
what they ate and what they stored in their 
houses (q_ 3:49; 5:110). The miracle of the 
birds is mentioned in the apocryphal 
Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the healings 
and resuscitations correspond to those nar- 
rated in the canonical gospels. From the 

qur'amc perspective, however, none of 
these miracles implies that he possessed 
divine status or supernatural power; they 
were simply God-given signs of the 
authenticity of his mission, "clear proofs" 
which the unbelievers nevertheless dis- 
missed as sorcery (q_ 5:110; 61:6; see proof; 
belief and unbelief). 

A further miracle attributed to Jesus is 
that, at the request of his disciples, he 
asked God to send down "a table (q.v.) 
spread with food" (q_ 5:112-5). The Arabic 
word translated by this phrase is ma'ida. 
The lexicographers derived it from the 
verb mada, "to feed," but it is probably an 
Ethiopic loanword for it resembles the 
term used by Abyssinian Christians to 
denote the eucharistic table. Moreover, as 
Jesus speaks of the table as a "festival" for 
his disciples, there can be little doubt that 
the episode describes the institution of the 
Eucharist at the Last Supper; but, in ac- 
cordance with traditional Christian typol- 
ogy, it appears to have conflated the Last 
Supper with the gospel feeding miracles 
and the Hebrew Bible story of how God 
sent down manna to the Israelites in the 
wilderness. Although the Qur'an seems at 
this point to acknowledge the legitimacy of 
a specifically Christian ritual that origi- 
nated with Jesus, the next verse makes 
clear that Jesus did not instruct people to 
worship him and his mother (q_ 5:116). 
Moreover, the ritual is not linked with 
Jesus' atoning death. On the contrary, as 
God punishes whom he wills and forgives 
whom he wills, there can be no question 
of the participants enjoying a special sta- 
tus or gaining immunity from punish- 
ment (q_ 5:18, 115; see reward and 

The Qur'an recognizes that God granted 
special favors to some of the envoys who 
preceded Muhammad, in the case of Jesus 
by supporting him with the Holy Spirit 
and enabling him to perform miracles 



(q 2:253). Moreover, it singles out Noah, 
Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets 
with whom God established a strong cove- 
nant (q.v.; q 33:7; compare 42:13). It urges 
the Muslims, however, to believe in all of 
God's envoys and not make a distinction 
between them (q 2:136, 285; 3:84; 4:152) 
because they all taught essentially the 
same religion. Thus Jesus' name also fig- 
ures in more extensive lists of messengers 
(q_ 4:163; 6:84-6). 

From the qur'anic perspective, like the 
other envoys, Jesus was a precursor of 
Muhammad. This is underscored in three 
ways. First, Jesus and Muhammad are 
depicted as having had similar experi- 
ences. For instance, both were sent as a 
"mercy," both needed to eat food, both 
had "helpers" {ansar, see apostle; 
emigrants AND helpers) and both were 
suspected of sorcery (Robinson, Christ, 
36-8; see insanity; soothsayers; magiu). 
Second, God informs Muhammad that he 
has inspired him in the same way as he 
inspired his predecessors including Jesus 
(q_ 4:163; 42:13). Third, Jesus is said to have 
foretold the coming of an envoy called 
Ahmad (q 61:6), the heavenly name of 

The plot to kill him, his exaltation and future 

According to Islamic tradition, when the 
Jews sought to kill Jesus, God outwitted 
them by projecting his likeness onto some- 
one else whom they mistakenly crucified. 
Meanwhile, he caused Jesus to ascend to 
the second or third heaven (see heaven 
and sky), where he is still alive. Jesus will 
return to kill the Antichrist (q.v.), and after 
a forty-year reign of peace he will even- 
tually die and be buried in Medina (see 
apocalypse). On the day of resurrection 
(q.v.), he will be a witness against the unbe- 
lieving People of the Book. It is question- 
able whether the qur'anic data provides 

sufficiently solid foundations to bear the 
weight of this construction. 

In q ig the child Jesus speaks of the day 
of his birth, the day he will die, and the 
day he will be raised alive (q 19:33). From 
the similar statement about John (q 19:15), 
and from subsequent verses that deal with 
eschatology (q 19:37-9, 66), it has been 
inferred that Jesus will be raised alive at the 
general resurrection. There is not the 
slightest hint, however, that his death also 
lies in the future. On the contrary, given 
only this sura, the assumption would be 
that it already lay in the past like John's. 

q 43 includes the cryptic assertion that 
"he" or "it" (the pronominal suffix -hu 
could mean either) is "knowledge for the 
hour" (q 43:61). The classical commenta- 
tors mention three traditional interpreta- 
tions: (i) Jesus' future descent is a portent 
which will signal that the hour is approach- 
ing, (ii) the Qiir'an imparts knowledge con- 
cerning the resurrection and judgment (see 
last judgment), and (iii) Jesus' raising of 
the dead by divine permission brings 
knowledge that God has the power to raise 
the dead (Robinson, Christ, 90-3). Instead 
of 'Urn, "knowledge," Ibn 'Abbas (d. ca. 
67/686), Qatada (d. ca. 117/735), an< ^ 
al-Dahhak (d. 115/723) allegedly read 'alam, 
"sign, distinguishing mark," which would 
strengthen the case for the first interpreta- 
tion, whereas Ubayy (see companions of 
the prophet) allegedly read dhikr, 
"reminder," which would seem to lend 
weight to the second (see exegesis of the 
Jesus is the subject of verse 59 and verse 
63, it is probably he, rather than the 
Quran, who is the subject of verse 61. 
Additionally, in view of the predominant 
concern with eschatology in verses 65-78, it 
seems likely that verse 61 alludes to Jesus' 
future descent rather than to his miracu- 
lous raising of the dead. Nevertheless, 
there is nothing to indicate that his future 


descent requires him to have been spared 
death on the cross. 

Q_ 3 contains two consecutive verses which 
have a bearing on this topic. First there is a 
reference to Jesus' unbelieving opponents, 
"And they plotted and God plotted, and 
God is the best of plotters" (p_ 3:54). This is 
followed by a statement about what God 
said to him, "When God said, Jesus, I am 
going to receive you and raise you to 
myself...'" (o_ 3:55). Muslim commentators 
usually assume that both verses refer to the 
same incident, namely the Jews' plot 
against Jesus' life and God's counter-plot to 
rescue him by having them crucify a look- 
alike substitute. Although there may be a 
close link between the two verses, the stac- 
cato nature of much qur'anic narrative 
should be a caution against supposing that 
this is necessarily the case. Therefore each 
verse will be considered in turn. 

The verb makara, "to plot, plan or 
scheme," and its derivatives, occur in thir- 
teen suras spanning Noldeke's second and 
third Meccan periods, and in Q_ 8 and 3 
which are Medinan. When human beings 
are the subject of this verb, they are usu- 
ally unbelievers who plot against specific 
envoys of God including Noah (q_ 71:22), 
Salih (q.v.; Q_ 27:50), Moses (p_ 40:45), and 
Muhammad (o_ 8:30; 13:42), or against 
God's signs (o_ 10:21) thereby hindering 
others from believing (q_ 34:33). When God 
is the subject of the verb, the reference is 
invariably to his counter-plot, but the 
emphasis may be on his rescue of the 
envoy (q_ 8:30; see protection), the imme- 
diate punishment of the unbelievers 
(O. 7-99) 2 7 : 5° f-> see CHASTISEMENT AND 

punishment; punishment stories), the 
recording of their misdeeds (p_ 10:21; see 
record OF human actions) or their even- 
tual punishment in the hereafter (q 13:42). 
Hence, in o_ 3:54 the unbelievers' plot 
could have been an attempt on Jesus' 

life — either the final plot to kill him or 
one which took place earlier in his ministry 
(see Q_ 5:110, compare Luke 4:30 andjohn 
8:59) — or an attempt to subvert his mes- 
sage. God's counter-plot could have 
entailed his rescue of Jesus, but it might 
equally well have been his punishment of 
the Jews by destroyingjerusalem (q.v.), or 
his preservation of Jesus' monotheistic 
teaching. It is true that Noah, Salih and 
Moses were all rescued by God and that 
the Qur'an warns against thinking that he 
would fail his envoys (o_ 14:47), which seems 
to strengthen the case for thinking that 
Q_ 3:54 implies that Jesus was delivered 
from death. On the other hand, the same 
sura explicitly mentions the possibility of 
Muhammad dying or being killed (p_ 3:144) 
and states that the Muslims who were 
killed at Uhud (see expeditions and 
battles; fighting; jihad) are not dead 
but "alive with their lord" (o_ 3:169). Thus 
Jesus' death, ostensibly at the hands of his 
enemies, cannot be ruled out on the basis 
of Q_ 3:54. 

The interpretation of o_ 3:55 hinges on the 
meaning of the present participle of the 
verb tawafja (Robinson, Christ, 117-26), 
which was rendered above as "going to 
receive." The finite verb is attested twenty- 
two times and the imperative three times. 
When God is the subject it can mean to 
receive souls in their sleep (q.v.; q 6:60; 
39:42) but it more frequently means "cause 
to die." As this latter meaning is attested in 
Q_ 3:193 and as the Quran uses the verb in 
other suras when speaking about Muham- 
mad's death (o_ 10:46; 13:40; 40:77), there is 
a prima facie case for construing God's 
words to Jesus to mean that he was going 
to cause him to die and raise him into his 
presence. Most of the classical commenta- 
tors, however, took them to mean that he 
would cause Jesus to sleep and to ascend in 
that condition or that he would snatch him 


alive from the earth. The minority, who 
conceded that the participle does mean 
"cause to die," nevertheless denied that 
Jesus was crucified. Some of them argued 
that the order of the verbs is inverted for 
stylistic reasons and that, although God 
has already caused Jesus to ascend, his 
death still lies in the future. Others held 
that God caused him to die a normal 
death, while his substitute was being cruci- 
fied, and that he then caused him to 

In p_ 4, the Jews are criticized for boasting 
that they killed Jesus (o_ 4:157-9). The inter- 
pretation of this passage poses a number of 
problems (Robinson, Christ, 78-89, 106-11, 
127-41). First, there is the statement, "They 
did not kill him or crucify him." Tradition- 
ally, Muslim interpreters have held that this 
is a categorical denial of Jesus' death by 
crucifixion. It may simply mean, however, 
that although the Jews thought that they 
had killed Jesus, Muslims should not think 
of him as dead because, from the qur'anic 
perspective, he is alive with God like the 
martyrs of Uhud (q_ 3:169, see above; see 

The second problem centers on the 
clause wa-ldkin shubbiha lahum (q_ 4:157). 
Most of the classical commentators under- 
stood it to mean "but he [i.e. the person 
whom they killed] was made to resemble 
[Jesus] for them." In support of this they 
cited traditional accounts of how God pro- 
jected Jesus' likeness (Arabic shibh) onto 
someone else. These accounts, however, 
are unreliable for they differ over the iden- 
tity of the person in question, some saying 
that he was a loyal disciple of Jesus who 
volunteered to die in his place, others that 
he was Judas Iscariot or one of the men 
sent to arrest Jesus. The non-standard 
interpretation that regards the verb as 
impersonal and construes the clause as 
"but it was made to seem like that to them" 

avoids the need to identify any person onto 
whom Jesus' identity was projected. 

A third problem is posed by the words 
"God raised him to himself" (q_ 4:158). The 
verb is raja a (compare the use of the parti- 
ciple rafi'va the similar context in Q_ 3:55). 
The classical commentators invariably 
took it to mean that God caused Jesus to 
ascend bodily into the second or third 
heaven where Muhammad allegedly saw 
him on the night of the mi'raj (see ascen- 
sion). It is arguable, however, that it is 
simply a graphic way of saying that God 
honored him, for elsewhere the same verb 
is used to denote God's raising envoys in 
rank (e.g. Q_ 2:253), his exalting Muham- 
mad's reputation (p_ 94:4) and the ascent of 
good works into his presence (p_ 35:10; see 
good deeds). 

The final problem is the ambiguity of the 
words "his death" in g_ 4:159. The classical 
commentators mentioned two principal 
interpretations: either it refers to the death 
of each individual Jew and Christian, 
because immediately before their death 
they will recognize the truth about Jesus, or 
it refers to Jesus' death, because he is still 
alive and all the People of the Book will 
believe in him when he descends to kill the 
Antichrist. A good case can be made for 
the former interpretation on syntactical 
grounds, for the whole sentence constitutes 
an oath used as a threat (see language 
and style of THE qjur'an). Moreover, the 
reading "their death," which is attributed 
to Ubayy, supports this interpretation. 
Owing to the influence of the hadlths 
about Jesus' future descent, however, the 
view that the verse referred to Jesus' death 
gained widespread support. 

The assertion that Jesus will be a witness 
against the People of the Book (o 4:159) is 
unproblematic and accords with the 
qur'anic teaching that God will raise a wit- 
ness against every community (o 16:89). 


In Q_ 5:117, Jesus says to God, "I was a wit- 
ness over them while I dwelt among them, 
and when you received me you were the 
watcher over them." The word rendered 
'you received' is the first person plural per- 
fect of tawaffa, a verb whose meaning was 
discussed earlier in connection with Q_ 3:55. 
It most probably refers here to Jesus' death 
or rapture before his exaltation, which 
already lies in the past. As the statement 
occurs, however, in a conversation that will 
take place on the last day, it is just con- 
ceivable that it refers to Jesus' future death 
after his descent to kill the Antichrist. 

From the above analysis, it should be 
obvious that the qur'anic teaching about 
Jesus' death is not entirely clear-cut. Three 
things, however, may be said with certainty. 
First, the Quran attaches no salvific im- 
portance to his death. Second, it does not 
mention his resurrection on the third day 
and has no need of it as proof of God's 
power to raise the dead. Third, although 
the Jews thought that they had killed Jesus, 
from God's viewpoint they did not kill or 
crucify him. Beyond this is the realm of 
speculation. The classical commentators 
generally began with the questionable 
premise that o 4:157-9 contains an unam- 
biguous denial of Jesus' death by crucifix- 
ion. They found confirmation of this in 
the existence of traditional reports about a 
look-alike substitute and hadlths about 
Jesus' future descent. Then they inter- 
preted the other qur'anic references to 
Jesus' death in the light of their under- 
standing of this one passage. If, however, 
the other passages are examined without 
presupposition and o 4:157-9 is then inter- 
preted in the light of them, it can be read 
as a denial of the ultimate reality of Jesus' 
death rather than a categorical denial that 
he died. The traditional reports about the 
crucifixion of a look-alike substitute proba- 
bly originated in circles in contact with 

Gnostic Christians. They may also owe 
something to early Shi'l speculation about 
the fate of the Imams (see imam; shTism 


Neal Robinson 

Primary (in addition to the classical commen- 
taries on the verses mentioned above): Ibn Ishaq- 

Secondary: 'Abd al-Tafahnm (= K. Cragg), The 
Qiir'an and Holy Communion, in MW 40 (1959), 
239-48; G.C. Anawati, 'Isa, in Ef, iv, 81-6; 
T. Andrae, Der Ursprung des Islams und das Christen- 
tum, Uppsala 1926; R. Arnaldez, Jesus dans la 
pensee musulmane, Paris 1988; id., Jesus jils de Marie 
prophets de I'lslam, Paris 1980; S.A. al-Assiouty, 
Jesus le non-Juif, Paris 1987; M.M. Ayoub, The 
Qur'an and its interpreters, ii. The House of Pmran, 
Albany 1992; id., Towards an Islamic Chris- 
tology. I: An image of Jesus in early Shii Muslim 
literature, in MW 66 (1976), 163-88; II: The death 
of Jesus, reality or delusion, in Mvvyo (1980), 
91-121; R. Bell, The origin of Islam in its Christian 
environment, London I926;J. Bellamy, Textual 
criticism of the Koran, in JAOS 121 (2001), 1-6; 
E.E.F. Bishop, The son of Mary, in MW 24 (1934), 
236-45; J. Bowman, The debt of Islam to 
monophysite Syrian Christianity, in Nederlands 
Theologisch Tijdschrift 19 (1964-5), 177-201; F. 
Brown, S.R. Driver and C.A. Briggs, A Hebrew 
and English lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford 1 907 
(repr. with corrections 1966); K. Cragg, Jesus and 
the Muslim. An exploration, London 1985; E.E. 
Elder, The crucifixion in the Qjir'an, in MW 13 
(1923), 242-58; G.F. Gerock, Versuch einer 
Darstellung der Christologie des Koran, Hamburg 
1839; E. Graf Zu den christlichen Einfiussen im 
Koran, inJ.F Thiel (ed.), al-Bahit. Festschrift J. 
Henninger zum 70. Geburtstag am 12. Mai igj6, 
Bonn 1976, 114-44; H- Gregoire, Mahomet et le 
Monophysisme, in Melanges Charles Diehl. i. 
Histoire, Paris 1930, i07-ig;J. Hameen-Anttila, 
Jeesus. Allahin Profeetta, Helsinki 1998; M. Hayek, 
Le Christ de ITslam, Paris 1959; id., L'origine des 
termes c Isa al-Maslh (Jesus Christ) dans le 
Coran, in Uorient chretien 7 (1962), 223-54, 3 U 5"^2; 
E. Hennecke, New Testament apocrypha, 2 vols., 
London 1963, i; J. Henninger, Spuren christlicher 
Glaubenswahrheiten im Koran, Schoneck 1951 ; 
Jefferey, For. vocab; Lane; G. Liiling, Uber den 
Ur-Qjlr'an. Ansdtze zur Rekonstruktion vorislamischer 
christlicher Strophenlieder im Qur'an, Erlangen 1974; 
D.B. MacDonald, The development of the idea 

of the Spirit in Islam, in mw 22 (1932), 25-42; 
M.M. Manneval, La christologie du Coran, Toulouse 
1867; L. Massignon, Le Christ dans les Evangiles 
selon Ghazall, in #£7(1932), 523-36; McAuliffe, 
Qur'anic, esp. 129-59 ( cna P- 4); H. Michaud, Jisus 
selon le Coran, Neuchatel 1960; A. Mingana, 
Syriac influence on the style of the Kur'an, in 
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 1927, 77-98; 
J. Nurbakhsh, Jesus in the eyes of the Sufis, London 
1983; Th.J. O'Shaughnessy, Word of God in the 
Qur'an, Rome 1984; G. Parrinder, Jesus in the 
Qur'an, London 1965; H. Raisimen, Das Koranische 
Jesusbild, Helsinki 1971; id., The portrait of Jesus 
in the Qur'an. Reflections of a biblical scholar, 
in Ti/ii" 70 (1980), 122-33; G. Risse, Gott ist Christus, 
der Sohn der Maria: Kin Studie zum Christusbild im 
Koran, Bonn 1989; N. Robinson, c Abd al-Razzaq 
al-Qashanl's comments on Sura 19, in Islamo- 
christiana 17 (1991), 21-33; id., Christ in Islam and 
Christianity, Albany 1991; id., Christian and 
Muslim perspectives on Jesus in the Qur'an, in 
A. Linzey and P. Wexler (eds.), Fundamentalism and 
tolerance. An agenda for theology and society, London 
1991, 92-105, 171-2; id., Covenant, communal 
boundaries and forgiveness in Surat al-Ma'ida, 
in Journal of qur'anic studies (forthcoming); id., 
Creating birds from clay. A miracle of Jesus in 
the Qur'an and in classical Muslim exegesis, in 
MWjg (1989), 1-13; id., Discovering the Qur'an. A 
contemporary approach to a veiled text, London 1996; 
id., Fakhr al-Dln al-RazI and the virginal con- 
ception, in Islamochristiana 14 (1988), 1-16; id., 
Hands outstretched. Towards a re-reading of 
Surat al-Ma'ida, in Journal of qur'anic studies 3 
(2001), 1-19; id., Jesus and Mary in the Qur'an. 
Some neglected affinities, in Religion 20 (1990), 
161-75; id., The qur'anic Jesus, the Jesus of 
history, and the myth of God incarnate, in VS. 
Sugirtharaja, Frances Young Festschrift (forth- 
coming); id., The structure and interpretation of 
Surat al-Mu'minun, in Journal of qur'anic studies 2 
(2000), 89-106; J. Robson, Christ in Islam, London 
1929; M.P. Roncaglia, Elements Ebionites et 
Elkesai'tes dans le Coran, in Proche orient chretien 21 
(1971), 101-25; RSV= The Bible, revised standard ver- 
sion, London 1952; E. Sayous, Jesus-Christ d'apres 
Mahomet, Paris and Leipzig 1880; C. Schedl, 
Muhammad und Jesus, Vienna 1978; A. Schimmel, 
Islamic names, Edinburgh 1989; id., Jesus und Maria 
in der Islamischen Mystik, Munich 1996; O.H. 
Schumann, Der Christus der Muslime, Giitersloh 
1975; J.S. Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs 
in pre-Islamic times, London 1979; R.C. Zaehner, 
At sundry times, London 1958; A.H.M. Zahniser, 
The forms of tawaffa in the Qur'an. A con- 
tribution to Christian-Muslim dialogue, in MWjg 
(1989), 14-24; S.M. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, 
Edinburgh 191 2. 


Jewels and Gems see metals 



id Judf 

The Arabic term denoting "Jews" is yahud, 
which occurs seven times in the Qur'an. 
The form hud also denotes the same and 
appears in this sense three times. The sin- 
gular, yahudi, occurs once. From yahud/hud 
was derived the secondary verb hdda, which 
means "to be a Jew/Jewish." "Those who 
were Jews" (hadu) is mentioned ten times. 
This verb appears once with the comple- 
mentary ild (q 7:156), in which case it 
denotes "to return to." It is put into the 
mouth of Moses (q.v.), who says to God: 
"We have returned (hudnd) to you." Obvi- 
ously, this is a play onyahud, on behalf of 
whom Moses is speaking here (see Paret, 
Kommentar, ad Q_ 7:156). Outside the Qur'an 
the transitive hawwada is used in the sense 
of "he made him a Jew." The iormyahu- 
diyya, which denotes "Judaism," or "the 

Jewish religion," is also non-qur'anic (cf. 
Lane, s.v. h-w-d). In addition to yahud and 
its derivatives, the Qur'an addresses the 

Jews as "Children of Israel" (q.v), which 
alludes to their ancestral origin. Some- 
times the Christians (see christians and 
Christianity), too, are included in this 
designation. The Jews are called by this 
appellation to imply that the fate of the 
old Children of Israel is continued through 
their descendants. Apart from the ethnic 
designations, the Qur'an addresses the 

Jews as "People of the Book" (q.v.). This is 
a religious evaluation of them, and refers 
to the fact that they had prophets sent to 
them with revealed scriptures (see book; 
prophets and prophethood). The 

Jews are not the only community with a 
revealed book. Q_ 6:156 mentions two par- 


ties to whom the book was revealed before 
the Muslims, and they stand for the Jews 
and the Christians respectively. 

Jews as believers 
The image of the qur'anic Jews is far from 
uniform (which, as an aside, is true con- 
cerning almost any other qur'anic theme), 
and the attitude towards them is ambiva- 
lent. On the one hand, they are recognized 
as true believers, while on the other, they 
are rejected as infidels (see belief and 
unbelief; faith). As for their image as 
believers, the passage stating this in the 
most explicit way is Q_ 2:62: "Those who 
have believed and those who have been 
Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians 
(q.v.; Sabi'un), whoever believes in God 
and in the last day (see last judgment) 
and does good (see GOOD deeds), their 
reward (see reward and punishment) 
awaits them with their lord (q.v.), and no 
fear (q.v.) shall be on them, neither shall 
they sorrow." A divine reward is promised 
here to the Jews as well as to the other 
monotheistic communities, provided they 
remain monotheists believing in God and 
the last judgment. The same statement is 
repeated almost verbatim in o_ 5:69, but in 
Q_ 22:17 a significant change is noticeable. 
The monotheistic communities are not 
alone, the Persians (majus, lit. Magians) and 
the Arab polytheists (mushrikun, see poly- 
theism and atheism; idolatry and 
idolaters) being mentioned, too. Con- 
cerning all of them it is stated that "God 
will decide between them on the day of 
resurrection (q.v.)..." No automatic reward 
is mentioned here, which renders the mes- 
sage to the non-Muslim monotheists more 
reserved in comparison with the former 

Other passages, however, recognize Jews 
as believers only on the condition that they 
believe in the concrete Islamic message as 
represented in the Quran. Jews who did 

accept the Islamic message are mentioned 
in several qur'anic passages, in which, 
however, they are always an exceptional 
minority among a majority of sinful Jews. 
Q_ 4:162, for instance, refers to "those (of 
the Jews) who are "firmly rooted in knowl- 
edge (see knowledge and learning)," 
and identifies them as those who believe 
in the Qur'an as well as in the scriptures 
revealed to previous prophets. They are 
mentioned in contrast to the evil-doing 
Jews who take usury (q.v.), whom the 
Qur'an denounces in the previous verse 
(see EVIL deeds). The same applies to 
Q_ 4:46, in which a minority of believ- 
ers is mentioned among a majority of 
Jews refusing to obey the qur'anic 

Passages employing the appellation "Peo- 
ple of the Book" reveal similar nuances. In 
some verses, the People of the Book are 
recognized as believers on the mere basis 
of their monotheism. Most explicit is 
Q_ 3:64: "Say: O People of the Book, come 
to a word (which is) fair between us and 
you, (to wit) that we serve no one but God, 
that we associate nothing with him, and 
that none of us take others as lords beside 
God." As observed by W.M. Watt [Muham- 
mad at Medina, 201), this passage offers the 
People of the Book a common framework 
of faith on the basis of monotheism and 
nothing else. The People of the Book are 
referred to in Q_ 16:43 as the people of the 
"reminder" [dhikr, another term for a re- 
vealed scripture) and, in this case, they are 
treated as authoritative experts on pro- 
phetic matters. The skeptic listeners of the 
qur'anic Prophet are invited to consult 
them and learn that God indeed may send 
a mortal messenger (q.v.) as he did in the 
past. Even the qur'anic Prophet himself is 
requested in q 10:94 to consult "those who 
have read the book" before him, if he is in 
doubt concerning his own prophetic reve- 
lation. As potential partners in a common 



system of monotheistic faith, the dietary 
laws of the People of the Book were pro- 
claimed acceptable (see FOOD and drink; 
lawful and unlawful; forbidden), 
and in one qur'anic passage (q_ 5:5), the 
Muslims were given permission to eat 
their food as well as to marry women 
from among them (see marriage and 
divorce). The Islamic fasting (q.v.) days 
were also introduced with reference to the 
fast of the previous communities (0 2:183). 
Their places of worship (q.v), too, are 
treated favorably in Q_ 22:40, which seems 
to refer to synagogues and churches, as 
well as to mosques (see church; mosq_ue; 
sacred precincts). The verse states that 
God has protected them from being 
pulled down. 

But other qur'anic passages using the 
label "People of the Book" distinguish 
between the believers and non-believers 
among them, the believers being those 
accepting the qur'anic message. For exam- 
ple, in o 3:199 it is stated that "Among the 
People of the Book are some who believe 
in God and in what has been sent down to 
you (i.e. to the qur'anic Prophet), and in 
what has been sent down to them, hum- 
bling themselves to God..." These believ- 
ers are again an exceptional minority. This 
is indicated in o_ 3:110, which says that 
some of the People of the Book are 
believers, "but most of them are ungodly" 
(al-fcsiqun, see hypocrites and hypoc- 
risy). The believers among the People of 
the Book are described in Q_ 5:66 as a "just 
nation" (umma muqtasida) among a majority 
of evil-doers. 

Other passages provide vivid descrip- 
tions of the piety (q.v.) of the believers 
among the People of the Book and of their 
admiration for the qur'anic revelation. In 
Q. 3 :iI 3"4 they are described as an "upright 
community, reciting the signs of God (i.e. 
the Qur'an; see recitation of the 
cjur'an) at the drawing on of night, pros- 

trating themselves (see bowing and 
prostration), believing in God and the 
last day... and strive with one another in 
hastening to good deeds." In Q_ 17:107-9 we 
read: "Those who were given the knowl- 
edge before it (i.e. before the Qur'an), 
when it (i.e. the Qur'an) is recited to them, 
fall down upon their faces prostrating... 
and they fall down upon their faces weep- 
ing, and it increases them in humility" 
(see virtues AND vices). Elsewhere it is 
asserted that these believers will be re- 
warded twice over, thanks to their belief 
in their own revealed scriptures as well as 
in the Qur'an (q_ 28:52-4). 

Jews as sinners 
But the Qur'an is engaged mainly in deal- 
ing with the sinners among the Jews and 
the attack on them is shaped according to 
models that one encounters in the New 
Testament. In the latter, the Jews are 
already accused of having persecuted and 
murdered their own prophets (Matthew 
5:12, 23:30-1; Luke 11:47). The prophets 
whom they killed are said to have foretold 
the coming of Jesus (Acts 7:52) and the 
Jews are said to have persecuted Jesus him- 
self, plotting to kill him (John 7:1; 18:12; 
Acts 9:29). They are also described as stir- 
ring up the gentiles against Jesus' apostles 
(see apostle) and as conspiring to kill 
them, too (Acts 13:50; 14:2; 20:3; 26:2). The 
Jews are further accused of not keeping 
the Torah (q.v.), which had been given to 
them (Acts 7:53). The conviction of the 
Jews that they were God's chosen people is 
also refuted and it is stressed that God is 
not only of the Jews but also of the gentiles 
(Romans 3:29). On the other hand, a group 
of Jews who believed in the message of the 
apostles is also mentioned (Acts 14:1). 

All these elements recur in the qur'anic 
attack on the Jews. To begin with, the Jew- 
ish arrogance (q.v.) stemming from the 
conviction that the people of Israel (q.v.) 



were God's chosen nation, is reproved in 
various ways. In Q_ 2:111, the Jews, as well as 
the Christians, are challenged to prove 
their claim that only they will enter para- 
dise (q.v.). In Q_ 5:18 the qur'anic Prophet is 
requested to refute the idea that the Jews 
and the Christians were no less than "the 
sons of God and his beloved ones." The 
qur'anic Prophet is requested to tell them 
that if this were so, God would not have 
punished them as he did. The arrogant 
Jews seem also to be referred to in o_ 4:49, 
which speaks about people who consider 
themselves pure, while only God decides 
whom to purify. Elsewhere (o 62:6) it is 
maintained that if the Jews are really 
God's favorites, to the exclusion of other 
people, then they had better die soon. This 
is a sarcastic response to their unfounded 
conviction that paradise is in store for them 
(see also Q_ 2:94). The same arrogance is 
attributed to them in verses dubbing them 
"People of the Book." In these verses they 
are said to have believed that they would 
only spend a few days in hell (o 2:79-80; 
3:23-4; see hell and hellfire). The 
Qur'an replies that they have no monopoly 
on God's mercy (q.v.) and that God extends 
it to whom he wills (p_ 57:29). 

The Jews have lost their right to be con- 
sidered a chosen people mainly because of 
their insubordination (see disobedience) 
and disbelief. The Qur'an imputes to them 
the blame of persecuting and killing their 
own prophets (o 3:181, 183), a sin that is 
usually mentioned with allusion to the 
Children of Israel (o_ 2:61, 87, 91; 4:155; 
5:70). The Christians, too, share some of 
the blame because they have rejected the 
prophets sent to the Jews. This is implied in 
p_ 2:113 where the Jews and the Christians 
reject each other's religion as a false one. 
This they do in spite of the fact that they 
read "the book" which testifies to the rele- 
vance of all prophets sent by God. Like- 
wise, in Q_ 4:151, the Qur'an condemns 

unbelievers (kafiriin) who have only believed 
in some prophets while rejecting others. It 
seems that the rift between Jews and Chris- 
tians is also referred to in Q_ 23:53 (cf 
Q_ 15:90-1), which condemns those who 
divide their religion into sects [pibur, see 
parties AND factions). Apart from perse- 
cuting the prophets, the Jews are blamed 
for failing to keep the laws of their own 
Torah. In o_ 62:5, those who have been 
given the Torah but do not act upon its 
stipulations are likened to an ass carrying 
books. The Torah, it is said elsewhere, con- 
tains guidance and light (q.v.) by which the 
prophets and the rabbis judged the Jews, 
but those who do not judge by what God 
has revealed are unbelievers (p_ 5:44; see 
judgment; scholar). Elsewhere they are 
said to have believed only in parts of the 
book and to have disbelieved in its other 
parts (o_ 2:85). The Christians, too, are 
suspected of ignoring their own law as is 
implied in o_ 5:68, in which the People of 
the Book are warned against failing to 
observe the Torah and the Gospel (q.v.; 
Injil). In fact, a party of the People of the 
Book is accused of deliberate rejection of 
the scriptures given to them by their 
prophets. They have cast them behind 
their backs, yet they expect to be praised 
for their assumed devotion to the Torah 
(q_ 2:101; 3:187-8). But the Jews, or rather 
the People of the Book, were also offered a 
chance to be forgiven, on condition that 
they started observing the Torah and the 
Gospel and all of God's revealed scrip- 
tures. If they had, God would have 
blessed them with an abundance of food 

The Qur'an is also aware of the wrath of 
God, which resulted in various hardships 
that the Jews suffered in the course of their 
history (see trial; punishment stories). 
Their rigid dietary laws, for example, 
which the Qur'an adopts in a passage 



mentioned above, are interpreted else- 
where in the Qur'an as a punishment from 
God inflicted on the Jews for oppressing 
the poor and for taking usury (o_ 4:160-1; cf. 
6:146; 16:118). The Qur'an further claims 
that these restrictions were not yet pre- 
scribed in the Torah, in which all kinds of 
food were still permitted except for that 
which Israel (see Jacob) prohibited 
(p_ 3:93). Apart from the dietary restric- 
tions, the state of internal friction and dis- 
cord, which divided the Jews into sects, was 
also seen as a sign of God's vengeance 
(q_ 5:64; see corruption; anger). The key 
term conveying the idea of God's anger 
with the Jews is ghadab, "wrath." It occurs 
in a passage (p_ 2:90) dealing with the Chil- 
dren of Israel, in which it is stated that 
they "were laden with wrath upon wrath" 
for their disbelief. In another verse 
(o_ 5:60), which is addressed to the People 
of the Book, allusion is made to those 
whom God has cursed and with whom he 
has been angry (ghadiba) and turned into 
apes and pigs. Transformation into apes 
recurs elsewhere in the Qur'an as a punish- 
ment inflicted on the Children of Israel for 
violating the Sabbath (q.v.; o_ 2:65; cf. 

The Jewish anti-Islamic sins 
In the qur'anic purview, the sins commit- 
ted by the Jews with respect to their own 
scriptures continued into Islamic times, 
bearing grave anti-Islamic implications. 
These come out in passages imputing to 
the Jews the distortion (tahrlf) of the origi- 
nal text of their own sacred scriptures 
(p_ 4:46; 5:13, 41-3; cf. Q_ 2:75; see SCRIPTURE 
AND THE ojur'an). This seems to be treated 
indirectly also in q 2:79, which denounces 
those "who write the book with their own 
hands and then they say, 'This is of God,' 
in order to sell it at a small price ..." (see 
selling AND buying). It is probably im- 
plied here that the Jews sold the believers 

forged copies of their scriptures (see 
forgery). In one verse (o_ 3:78), the act of 
perversion is oral, performed by people 
who "twist" the book with their tongues, 
making the false claim that this is the true 
form of the book. In this context, the Jews 
are also accused of playing with (Hebrew?) 
words that bear a mischievous sense 
(p_ 4:46; cf. Q_ 2:104). All this is designed to 
mislead and offend the Muslims and their 
Prophet. The distortion of the Torah goes 
hand in hand with the Jewish sin of reject- 
ing those rulings of the qur'anic Prophet 
that corresponded to their own laws. After 
having made him a judge, they refuse to 
follow his verdict, and the Qur'an blames 
them for preferring the legal advice of 
others (p_ 5:41-3; see law and the 
cjur'an). The Jews are also said to have 
plotted to conceal from the Muslim believ- 
ers what God revealed to them, so as not to 
give the believers arguments which they 
might use against them (p_ 2:76; cf. o_ 4:37; 
2:42; see debate and disputation). The 
sin of concealment is imputed mainly to 
the People of the Book (q_ 2:146; 3:71). 
They are said to have made their scriptures 
into separate writings (qardtis), much of 
which they concealed (q_ 6:91). The mes- 
sage of the qur'anic Prophet reintroduces 
those parts of the previous scriptures that 
the People of the Book attempted to con- 
ceal (p_ 5:15). The Qur'an promises the sin- 
ners guilty of concealment a severe curse 
(q.v.) from God (p_ 2:159), which is the fire 
(q.v.) of hell (q 2:174). When accusing the 
Jews of concealing the Torah, the Qur'an 
apparently refers to those parts in their 
scriptures that foretold the emergence of 
Muhammad (q.v.). This is supported by 
qur'anic verses asserting that the descrip- 
tion of the Islamic Prophet was recorded 
in the Torah and the Gospel as the "gen- 
tile" (ummi, see illiteracy) Prophet 
(p_ 7:157) and that Jesus (q.v.) knew him as 
Ahmad (q 61:6). 



The Jews, or rather the People of the 
Book, are also accused of rejecting the 
authenticity of the Qur'an as the true 
Word of God (q.v.). On one occasion, they 
demand that the Prophet produce a book 
from heaven (q_ 4:153; see heavenly book) 
and they seem to have in mind the written 
Torah of Moses. Their demand seems to 
be designed to annoy the Prophet who only 
receives sporadic oral revelations (see 
implies that the People of the Book do not 
believe him to be a true prophet. In some 
other passages, their conduct is the result 
of sheer envy (q.v.). They are jealous of the 
believers who have been blessed with God's 
bounty as this emanates from the Qur'an 
that has been given to them (see blessing; 
grage). Their rejection of the Islamic 
scripture out of jealousy has turned them 
into unbelievers (kafirun) in the eyes of the 
Qur'an (p_ 2:89-90, 105). Their frustration 
is described most vividly in Q_ 3:119, ac- 
cording to which, whenever the People of 
the Book meet the believers, they pretend 
to believe in the Qur'an, but when they are 
alone they bite their nails in rage at the 
believers. Moreover, the jealous People of 
the Book are said to have tried to make the 
believers revert to unbelief (q_ 2:109; see 
also ft 3:69, 99-100; 4:54; 5:59). They con- 
spire to achieve this by pretending to be- 
lieve in the Qur'an in the morning and by 
disbelieving in it in the evening (o 3:72), i.e. 
they attempt to convey the impression that 
they only stopped believing in the Qur'an 
after having examined it carefully, and not 
out of spite. The rejection of the Qur'an 
by the Jews seems also to be treated in 
o 2:97-8. Here, the "enemies of Gabriel" 
(q.v.) are attacked and tagged as unbeliev- 
ers (kafirun). Implicit here is the idea that 
the Jews rejected the Qur'an because it 
was brought to Muhammad by the angel 
Gabriel, whom the Jews considered their 

enemy. The Qur'an asserts that Gabriel 
brought down the Qur'an by God's will 
and that whoever is an enemy to any of 
God's angels (see angel) will be punished 
by God as an unbeliever. The main polem- 
ical argument used in response to the Jew- 
ish rejection of the Qur'an revolves around 
the idea that this scripture confirms the 
message of the previous scriptures. This 
means that the People of the Book must 
believe in it as well as in their own scrip- 
tures. They cannot believe only in some 
of God's holy books and reject the others 
(e.g. o 2:89-91). 

The Jews are not just unbelievers but also 
idolaters. In o 9:30-1 they are accused of 
believing that Ezra (q.v.; 'Uzayr) was the 
son of God, just as the Christians held that 
the Messiah was the son of God. The 
Qur'an reacts to both tenets by asserting 
that one must associate nothing with God. 
This implies that the Jews and the Chris- 
tians are associators (mushrikun), i.e. they 
associate idols with God in a polytheistic 
form of worship. Moreover, in Q_ 4:51, 
"those who have been given part of the 
book," who are probably the Jews, are said 
to have believed in the Jibt and the Taghut 
(cf. p_ 5:60), which may imply a kind of idol 
worship (see idols and images). 

The gravest aspect of the Jewish anti- 
Islamic sin is the hostility towards the Mus- 
lim believers. In this respect, the Qur'an 
differentiates between them and the Chris- 
tians. This comes out in Q_ 5:82, which 
states that the Jews as well as the associa- 
tors (alladhlna ashraku) are the strongest in 
enmity against the believers, while the 
Christians, particularly priests and monks, 
are the closest in love to the believers (see 
monastigism and monks). But in o 3:186, 
the enemies of the Muslims are identified 
by the more comprehensive label "People 
of the Book" and here again they are cou- 
pled with the mushrikun. Together they 

ise the believers to "he 

ar much annoy- 



ing talk" (la-tasma'unna) . Another aspect of 
the hostility attributed to the People of the 
Book is revealed in Q_ 3:75 in which some of 
them claim that they have no moral obli- 
gations with respect to the "gentiles" 
(ummiyyin), and therefore do not pay their 
financial debts (see debt) back to them. 
(See also polemic and polemical 


The dissociation from the Jews 
Another aspect of the image of the Jews as 
enemies of the believers is revealed in pas- 
sages in which a tendency to dissociate 
from them, as well as from the Christians, 
is noticed. To begin with, in Q_ 5:51, the be- 
lievers are warned against taking the Jews 
and the Christians for friends (awliya', see 
friendship). It is stressed that the Jews and 
the Christians are each other's friends, and 
whoever associates with them becomes one 
of them. In Q_ 5:57, a similar injunction is 
given concerning the People of the Book. 
It is added that they, as well as the unbe- 
lievers (kuffar), have taken the religion of 
the believers for a mockery (q.v.) and a 
joke, and this is why the believers should 
not be friendly with them. The People of 
the Book are dealt with also in Q_ 42:15, 
where the qur'anic Prophet is warned 
against following their evil inclinations 
[ahwa', see good and evil). Instead of fol- 
lowing them, he is directed elsewhere to 
adhere to the law (shari'a) that God has 
given him (q_ 45:18). The law is based on 
what God has revealed to him, i.e. the 
Quran, and since it confirms the scriptures 
revealed previously to the Jews and the 
Christians, the qur'anic Prophet is re- 
quested to judge between the People of the 
Book according to it. But in so doing he 
must beware of their evil inclinations and 
be cautious of them, lest they seduce him 
from part of what God has revealed to 
him (0.5:49). 

Other passages draw a sharper distinc- 
tion between the alternative recommended 
law and what is defined as the "evil inclina- 
tion" of the People of the Book. Some of 
these passages deal with the issue of the 
direction of prayer [qibla, q.v.). In Q_ 2:145 it 
is stated that the People of the Book and 
the Muslims reject each other's qibla, and 
the qur'anic Prophet is warned not to fol- 
low the evil inclinations of the former. 
Another verse, Q_ 2:142, indicates that the 
conflict over the qibla started when the 
Muslims abandoned their original qibla, i.e. 
the one to which the People of the Book 
were accustomed, and adopted another 
one, which caused the "foolish people" to 
wonder what made the believers change 
their former qibla. The final qibla sanc- 
tioned by the Qur'an is the one directed 
towards the sacred mosque (in Mecca). 
Thus, the alternative qibla is Mecca (q.v.), 
which most probably was designed to 
replace the Jewish qibla of Jerusalem (q.v.), 
although the latter is never mentioned 
explicitly in the Qur'an. 

A more dogmatic definition of the rec- 
ommended substitute for the "evil inclina- 
tions" of the Jews and the Christians is 
provided in o 2:120. Here, the Jews and the 
Christians wish for the qur'anic Prophet to 
embrace their respective religions, but God 
tells him to proclaim instead his adherence 
to the "right course" or "guidance" (huda) 
of God. The same is repeated in Q_ 2:135 
but the recommended substitute is defined 
here more concretely as the religion (milla) 
of Abraham (q.v.). The latter is said to 
have been a hanlfif^.w.), i.e. a non-Jewish 
and a non-Christian monotheist. The par- 
ticularistic insistence on Abraham's non- 
Jewish and non-Christian identity comes 
out in explicit statements as, for example, 
in Q_ 2:140, where Abraham as well as 
Ishmael (q.v.), Isaac (q.v.), Jacob and the 
Tribes (i.e. Jacob's sons) are said to have 
been neither Jews nor Christians (q_ 2:140). 


2 8 

Elsewhere, the non-Jewish/non-Christian 
identity is linked to Abraham through the 
assertion that the Torah and the Gospel 
were only revealed after him (p_ 3:65). This 
statement is addressed to the People of the 
Book, most likely with the intention of 
refuting their own aspirations concerning 
Abraham, whose religious heritage they 
were probably claiming to have preserved. 
In other words, the image of Abraham has 
been appropriated from the Jews and the 
Christians and was turned into the proto- 
type of the non-Jewish and non-Christian 
model of Islam. This is also the context of 
Q 3:67-8, which asserts that the people 
nearest to Abraham are the Muslim 

The punishment of the Jews 
The response to the Jewish rejection of 
the Islamic message as described in the 
Qur'an consists not only in various dog- 
matic maneuvers but also in military pres- 
sure (see jihad; fighting). The latter 
course is hinted at in o_ 29:46, in which the 
qur'anic Prophet is advised to dispute with 
the People of the Book in a fair manner, 
"except those of them who act unjustly." 
This implies that the evildoers among the 
People of the Book deserve harsh meas- 
ures, perhaps even war (q.v.). Other pas- 
sages give up the hope of ever convincing 
the Jews and elaborate on the punishment 
that they deserve for their unbelief. Ac- 
cording to some verses, the punishment 
awaits the Jews in the indefinite future. 
This is implied, for example, in Q_ 3:20, 
which says that if the People of the Book 
turn their backs on the qur'anic Prophet, 
he can do nothing but deliver his message, 
a verse which is taken to mean that it is 
God's business to deal with such people in 
his own time. This idea is even clearer in 
Q_ 2:109, in which the believers are urged to 
pardon and forgive (see forgiveness) the 

People of the Book until God brings his 
command (concerning them). 

But the Jewish-Muslim relationship as 
described in yet other verses is explicitly 
warlike. In one passage (p_ 5:64), the mili- 
tary option seems to have been taken up by 
the Jews themselves. It is stated here that 
whenever they light the fire of war, God 
puts it out. In o_ 2:85, which is addressed to 
the Children of Israel, allusion is made to 
certain hostile acts they carry out against 
some unidentified groups. Yet in other pas- 
sages, the Jews are the party that comes 
under the Islamic military pressure and 
their military weaknesses are exposed. In 
Q_ 59:14, for example, it is observed that the 
People of the Book never fight the believ- 
ers in one solid formation but only in spo- 
radic groups, hiding behind the walls of 
their fortresses. They are divided among 
themselves and fight each other strongly. 
The People of the Book have suffered 
actual defeat, which is mentioned in 
Q_ 59:1-4. Here, they are described as being 
driven out of their houses, although they 
thought that their fortresses would defend 
them against God. In o_ 59:11-12, the expul- 
sion of the unbelieving People of the Book 
is mentioned yet again, this time with ref- 
erence to the hypocrites (munafiqun), who 
have not kept their promise to help the 
People of the Book. A similar pattern of 
military defeat recurs in Q_ 33:26-7, which 
says that God has brought down the People 
of the Book from their fortresses and cast 
fear into their hearts (see heart). The 
believers have slain some of them and 
taken others captive (see captives). God 
bequeathed upon the believers their lands 
and possessions (see booty; expeditions 
and battles). 

Apart from the military defeat of the 
People of the Book, the Qur'an also refers 
very briefly to their social status under 
Islamic domination (see social rela- 



tions; SOCIAL interactions; COMMUNITY 
and society in the qur'an). They must 
be killed unless they pay tribute (the jizj/a, 
see taxation; poll tax) but even then, 
they remain socially inferior to the believ- 
ers (o 9:29). 

The qur'anic Jews and the life of Muhammad 
The concrete relationship between the 
qur'anic Jews and the life of Muhammad is 
provided in the realm of the biography of 
Muhammad (the sira, see sira AND THE 
q_ur'an). One of the earliest biographies of 
Muhammad is that of Ibn Ishaq (d. 150/ 
768), of which the best-known version is 
that of Ibn Hisham (d. 218/833). Ibn 
Ishaq's compilation served as a model to 
later historiographers who quoted large 
portions of his accounts. His compilation 
contains numerous allusions to qur'anic 
verses about the Jews. Most of them ap- 
pear in the chapters about Muhammad's 
stay in Medina (q.v.) and are associated 
with the history of the Jewish tribes of that 
city, namely, Qaynuqa' (q.v.), Nadir (q.v.) 
and Qurayza (q.v.). These tribes based 
their military power on fortresses built of 
stone, within which they lived, and thanks 
to which they retained predominance over 
their Arab neighbors. The arrival of the 
Jews in Medina is described in the sources 
as a prolonged process containing waves of 
refugees from Syria (q.v.) following the 
Babylonian and the Roman conquests of 
that area. Some traditions provide the Jews 
with a priestly pedigree originating in 
Moses' brother, Aaron (q.v.), but other tra- 
ditions trace their origins to certain ancient 
Arab clans who are said to have converted 
to Judaism (see tribes and clans). 

Ibn Ishaq incorporates Q_ 2:85 within a 
description of some pre-Islamic alliances 
formed between the Jewish tribes and the 
Arab inhabitants of Medina, the Aws and 
the Khazraj. The qur'anic verse is ad- 

dressed to the Children of Israel, accusing 
them of slaying their people and of turn- 
ing a party from among them out of their 
homes, unlawfully going against their own. 
Ibn Ishaq has associated this verse with 
the military clashes that broke out between 
the various Jewish/Arab alliances in pre- 
Islamic Medina (Ibn Ishaq, Sua, ii, 188-9). 
The first Jewish tribe defeated by Muham- 
mad was Qaynuqa'. Ibn Ishaq adduces 
o 3:12, which addresses "those who disbe- 
lieve," in reference to the fate of this tribe: 
they are told that they shall be vanquished 
and driven to hell together. Although this 
verse does not mention the Jews in particu- 
lar, Ibn Ishaq has nevertheless applied it to 
them, to illustrate God's wrath with the 
arrogant Jews of Qaynuqa' (Ibn Ishaq, 
Sira, ii, 201). Q_ 5:51, which does mention 
the Jews and warns the believers against 
taking them as friends, appears in Ibn 
Ishaq (Sira, iii, 52-3) within an account 
about a Muslim who dissolved his alliance 
with the Qaynuqa' out of fidelity to 
Muhammad. The story implies that the 
Qur'an encourages believers to sever their 
former pacts with the Jews. The tribe of 
Nadir was next to be attacked by the Mus- 
lim warriors and Ibn Ishaq associates large 
portions of o 59 (Siirat al-Hashr, "The 
Gathering") with them. He asserts that 
most of this sura was revealed in connec- 
tion with the defeat of this Jewish tribe 
(Sira, iii, 202-4; see occasions of reve- 
lation). Another qur'anic passage, Q_ 5:11, 
was connected with Nadir's plot to assassi- 
nate Muhammad when he came to their 
premises in order to discuss a problem of 
blood money (q.v.; Ibn Ishaq, Sira, ii, 
211-12). The verse itself bears no direct 
relation to the Jews, merely stating that 
God stopped some people from "stretching 
forth their hands" against the believers. By 
applying the verse to the Jews, Ibn Ishaq 
betrays yet again his desire to illustrate 



God's dismay with the Jewish anti-Islamic 
hostility by recourse to as many qur'anic 
verses as possible. For the massacre of the 
tribe of Qurayza (q.v.), Ibn Ishaq alludes to 
o 33:26, which mentions the People of the 
Book whom God drove down from their 
fortresses. The Qur'an says that they 
backed the unbelievers and that the believ- 
ers killed some of them and took another 
part captive. The Qur'an goes on to say 
that God made the believers heirs to the 
land and dwellings of the defeated People 
of the Book as well as to "a land that you 
have not yet trodden" (q_ 33:27). The latter 
is taken by Ibn Ishaq to be a forecast of the 
Islamic conquest of the Jewish settlement 
in Khaybar (Ibn Ishaq, Sua, iii, 261-2). In 
other exegetical compilations (tafsir, see 
medieval), additional verses have been 
connected to the affair of Qurayza. Most 
noteworthy is Q_ 8:55-8, in which instruc- 
tions are given for treating "those with 
whom you make an agreement, then they 
break their agreement every time" (see 

Apart from the military clash between 
Muhammad and the Jews of Medina, Ibn 
Ishaq (Sim, ii, 160-221) dedicates a lengthy 
chapter to the polemical discourse between 
the two parties, and here, too, numerous 
qur'anic allusions are provided. In his 
introduction to this chapter, Ibn Ishaq 
observes that the Jewish rabbis showed 
hostility to Muhammad because God 
chose his apostle from the Arabs (q.v.). The 
rabbis were joined by hypocrites 
(munafiqun) from the Aws and the Khazraj 
who clung to the polytheism of their 
fathers. The Jewish rabbis used to annoy 
the Prophet with questions and introduced 
confusion so as to confound the truth (q.v.) 
with falsity (see lie). The Qur'an was re- 
vealed with reference to these questions of 
theirs. Further on, Ibn Ishaq provides spe- 

cific accounts with names of hostile Jews, 
about whom the various qur'anic passages 
were allegedly revealed. These accounts 
impute to them the stereotyped qur'anic 
sins of arrogance, jealousy, mockery, dis- 
tortion of scriptures, etc. (see sin, major 

In connection with the sin of concealing 
parts of scripture, as imputed to the Jews 
in p_ 2:76, Ibn Ishaq's traditions (see 
hadith AND THE qjur'an) assert that the 
Jews concealed God's command to believe 
in Muhammad's prophethood (Sua, ii, 185; 
see prophets and prophethood). As for 
the qur'anic allegation that the Jews did 
not judge "by what God revealed," i.e. 
that they falsified the laws of the revealed 
Torah (q_ 5:41-3), Ibn Ishaq has recorded a 
tradition dealing with the issue of the pen- 
alty of death by stoning (q.v.; rajm), which 
adulterers must incur (see adultery and 
fornication; boundaries and pre- 
cepts). The Jews reportedly rejected this 
law while Muhammad endorsed it. They 
also concealed the fact that this law was 
written in their own Torah. They did so 
out of jealousy so as not to admit that 
Muhammad was a genuine prophet, well 
guided in the divine laws (Ibn Ishaq, Sua, 
ii, 213-14). The sin of ignoring the evidence 
of their own Torah is imputed to the Jews 
also in Ibn Ishaq's report about the religion 
of Abraham. The report alludes to o 3:23, 
which mentions the invitation to the book 
of God given to those who have received a 
portion of the scripture (a-lam tara ild 
lladhina utu nasiban mina l-kitab yud'awna ild 
kitdbi lldh), that it might judge between 
them. The verse goes on to say that a party 
of them turned down the offer. Tradition 
relates that the verse was revealed follow- 
ing a debate that took place in a Jewish 
school (bayt cd-midrds) between a number of 
Jews and Muhammad. Muhammad an- 
nounced that his religion was that of Abra- 
ham but the Jews claimed that Abraham 



was Jewish. When, however, Muhammad 
asked them to let the Torah judge between 
them, they refused (Ibn Ishaq, Sua, ii, 201). 
The Jewish conviction that they were genu- 
ine holders of Abraham's religious legacy 
comes out also in a tradition about the 
changing of the qibla from Jerusalem to 
Mecca, which alludes to p_ 2:142. The tra- 
dition identifies the "fools" of this verse 
(see ignorance) with a delegation of Jews 
who came to Muhammad claiming that 
following the true religion of Abraham 
means reverting to the qibla of Jerusalem 
(Ibn Ishaq, Sua, ii, 198-9). Another tradi- 
tion makes it even clearer that both parties, 
Muslims and Jews, claimed to be holding 
the true religion of Abraham and accused 
each other of distorting it. The tradition 
says that in this context, Q_ 5:68 was re- 
vealed. It tells the People of the Book that 
they follow no good until they keep the 
Torah and the gospel (Ibn Ishaq, Sua, ii, 
217). Thus it is clear that in Ibn Ishaq's pre- 
sentation, the idea of the religion of Abra- 
ham is not regarded as a newly introduced 
concept but merely as an old Jewish idea 
that acquired a new non-Jewish Islamic 
interpretation. This interpretation was 
considered closer to the genuine message 
of the Torah than the Jewish one. 

Among the passages quoted in Ibn 
Ishaq's reports about the Jewish-Islamic 
polemics, some make no direct reference to 
Jews. For example, q 3:7 mentions "those 
in whose hearts there is perversity (zaygh)," 
equating them with those who follow those 
parts of the Qur'an that are ambiguous 
(q.v.; mutashabihat). They do so in order to 
mislead, and impose (their own) interpreta- 
tion upon, the Muslims. Ibn Ishaq identi- 
fies the perverts with some Jews of Medina 
and says that they used to examine the 
mysterious letters that open some of the 
qur'anic chapters, trying to figure out what 
their numerical value meant (see mys- 
terious letters; numerology). When 

they failed, they expressed their doubts 
concerning Muhammad's prophethood 
(Ibn Ishaq, Sua, ii, 194-5). Another similar 
case is that of Q_ 2:6-7, in which anonymous 
unbelievers (aUadhina are con- 
demned. It is said about them that "God 
has set a seal upon their hearts and upon 
their hearing and there is a covering over 
their eyes (q.v.), and there is a great punish- 
ment for them" (see hearing and deaf- 
ness; seeing and hearing; vision and 
blindness). Ibn Ishaq (Sua, ii, 178) identi- 
fies these doomed unbelievers as the Jewish 
rabbis. He says that these rabbis are also 
referred to in Q_ 2:14, which speaks about 
devils (shayatin, see devil), with whom 
some unbelievers conspire against the 
Muslims. While the "devils" are the Jews, 
the unbelievers, according to Ibn Ishaq 
(Sua, ii, 179), are the hypocrites (munafiqun). 
Q_ 2:170 refers to some stubborn people 
who refuse to become Muslims and insist 
on following the faith of their fathers. 
Here, too, according to Ibn Ishaq (Sua, ii, 
200-1), the Qur'an alludes to certain Jews 
whose names he specifies. Q_ 7:187 mentions 
some anonymous people inquiring when 
the "hour" shall come (see apocalypse) 
and, again, Ibn Ishaq (Sua, ii, 218) says that 
they were the Jews and provides a list of 
their names. Even Q_ 112, which declares 
the undefined unity of God, without refer- 
ence to any unbelievers, was revealed, 
according to Ibn Ishaq (Sua, ii, 220- 1), in 
response to irritating questions posed to 
Muhammad by certain Jews. 

In various exegetical sources, other verses 
have been associated with the Jewish- 
Islamic conflict. For example, q 58:8 con- 
demns people who "hold secret counsels 
for sin" and greet the qur'anic Prophet in a 
depraved manner. This was interpreted as 
referring to the Jews who reportedly 
greeted Muhammad by saying al-sam 
'alayka ("destruction be upon you"), instead 
of al-salam 'alayka ("peace be upon you"). 



On the other hand, Ibn Ishaq is also aware 
of some Medinan Jews who converted to 
Islam and his report about them alludes to 
Q_ 3:113, which mentions an "upright" party 
among the People of the Book. He pro- 
vides a list of their names — the best 
known of which being that of Abdallah b. 
Salam — and describes the dismay of the 
rabbis at their conversion to Islam (Ibn 
Ishaq, Sua, ii, 206). Ibn Salam's name re- 
curs in later exegetical compilations (tafsir) 
in association with other verses mentioning 
believers among the Jews or the People of 
the Book (q_ 4:46, 162; 5:66; 10:94; 28:52-4). 
Ibn Salam is occasionally contrasted with 
Ka'b b. al-Ashraf, a Jewish archenemy of 
the Prophet (of the tribe of Nadir), who 
was assassinated at the behest of Muham- 
mad. Ibn al-Ashraf 's name, too, was read 
into the Qiir'an and it occurs, for example, 
in the commentaries on p_ 3:75. That verse 
speaks of two types of people belonging to 
the People of the Book: those who pay 
back their debts to the believers in full and 
those who do not. Ibn Salam is mentioned 
as one of the former and Ibn al-Ashraf as 
one of the latter. Ibn al-Ashraf also figures 
in the exegesis of o_ 3:186, in which the 
believers are said to have been hearing 
"much annoying talk" from the People of 
the Book. The commentators say that the 
verse refers to Ibn al-Ashraf who used to 
compose satirical anti-Islamic poetry (see 
poetry and poets). His name is also in- 
cluded in the exegesis of p_ 3:78, which 
speaks about those who "twist" the book, 
i.e. the Qur'an, with their tongues. Q 4:51-2 
mentions people whom God has cursed 
because they told the unbelievers that the 
latter's faith was better than the Islamic 
one. The exegetes say that the passage 
refers to Ibn al-Ashraf, who supported 
the Quraysh and their idols and reviled 
Muhammad's religion (q.v.). The 
Prophet's doomed "enemy" (shani') of 
o 108:3 is also identified with him (see 

enemies; opposition to muhammad). 

It may be noted in passing that some of 
the qur'anic verses that refer to believers 
among the People of the Book did not 
remain confined to the Jewish sphere and 
appear also in a specific Christian context. 
For example, o_ 28:54, which states that the 
believers among the People of the Book 
shall be granted their reward twice, was 
interpreted as referring to Ibn Salam as 
well as to Salman al-Farisi. The latter 
changed his faith from Christianity to 
Islam and became a celebrated Compa- 
nion of the Prophet (see companions of 
the prophet). The verse is also said to 
refer to believers among the Christians of 
Abyssinia (q.v.) who joined Muhammad's 
warriors in Medina (Suyuti, Dun; v, 131-3; 
see emigrants and helpers). This verse 
also inspired a hadith that is attributed to 
the Prophet, which says that whoever 
embraces Islam from among the "people of 
the two books," will be rewarded twice and 
whoever embraces Islam from among the 
associators (mushrikun), will be rewarded 
once (Ibn H an bal, Alusnad, v, 259). The 
same verse was eventually worked into the 
Prophet's letter to the Byzantine emperor 
(see Byzantines). The letter promises him 
a double reward in return for his conver- 
sion to Islam. The same letter contains also 
the verbatim wording of Q 3:64, which 
extends an invitation to the People of the 
Book to join the Muslims in a common 
monotheistic faith (e.g. Bukhari, Sahlh, iv, 
57 [56:102]). 

Qiu'anic Jews and the Islamic community 
The sinful Jews of the Qjur'an were eventu- 
ally turned into a model of evil of which 
the entire Islamic community must beware. 
This emerges from the exegesis of qur'anic 
passages that denounce people who be- 
came divided by inner conflicts and dis- 
sension (e.g. Q_ 3:105; 6:159). The verses 
instruct the qur'anic Prophet to dissociate 



from them and the commentators have 
identified them with the Jews, as well as 
the Christians. It was thus implied that 
the Islamic community should be cautious 
not to follow the Jewish and Christian 
precedent of discord. Such warning was 
intended mainly against heretical groups, 
like the Kharijls (q.v.) and the Qadarls who 
were accused of introducing Jewish models 
of schism into Islamic society, although the 
introduction of Jewish ideas is most com- 
monly associated with the ShfTs, especially 
'Abdallah b. Saba' and al-Mukhtar (d. 67/ 
687; see shI'ism AND THE qur'an). Verses 
dealing with the fate of unbelievers in hell 
(e.g. o_ 18:103-6) were likewise interpreted 
as referring to the Jews with the same 
anti-heretical aim in mind (for details see 
Rubin, Between Bible and Quran, 160-3, 
208-12). In addition to those verses about 
the wrath (ghadab) of God in which the 
Jews are mentioned explicitly, various 
qur'anic allusions to anonymous groups 
who have come under God's wrath were 
also interpreted as referring to the Jews 
(e.g. p_ 1:7; 60:13). The punishment of 
transformation into apes and pigs, which 
the qur'anic People of the Book incurred 
as a result of God's wrath, reappears in 
traditions about Jews of Islamic times. In 
some of these traditions, the Prophet 
himself is involved and he is said to have 
addressed them as "brothers of apes and 
pigs." Some traditions have applied the 
same punishment to certain heretical 
Islamic groups such as the Qadarls 
(Rubin, Between Bible and Quran, 213-32; 
see heresy). 

Numerous qur'anic passages associated 
with the Jews emerge also in the discus- 
sions of their status as ahl al-dhimma, "peo- 
ple under protection" (i.e. of the Islamic 
community, the umma, see protection). 
Especially noteworthy is the qur'anic 
passage that contains the term dhimma 
(O. 9-7 _i 5)- ^ deals with associators (mush- 

rikun), concerning whom the Qur'an says 
that their protection remains valid as long 
as they remain loyal to the believers (see 
loyalty). If they break their oaths (see 
oaths and promises) and revile the 
Islamic religion, then the believers must 
fight them. Muslim scholars applied this 
passage to the obligation of loyalty with 
which the Jewish and Christian dhimims 
must treat their Muslim protectors (Ibn 
Qayyim, Dhimma, iii, 1379 f). Q_ 9:28 is also 
noteworthy. It proclaims that the mushrikun 
are impure (najas, see purity and impur- 
ity) and therefore they should not ap- 
proach the "sacred mosque." Muslim 
scholars took this statement as the scrip- 
tural basis for the injunction (usually attrib- 
uted to the Prophet himself) to prevent 
Jews and Christians from entering the 
Arabian peninsula (Ibn Qayyim, Dhimma, 
i, 370-408). 

Qur'anic Jews and modern scholarship 
Modern scholars have usually taken the 
qur'anic treatment of the Jews as a point 
of departure for their historical analysis of 
Muhammad's relations with the Jews of 
Medina. In so doing, they have followed 
the traditional Islamic approach, which 
sees in the Qur'an an authentic collection 
of Muhammad's prophecies. The scholars 
have adopted a historiographical narrative 
(see history and the qur'an) about a 
so-called "break" between Muhammad 
and the Jews of Medina, usually dated to 
shortly before the battle of Badr (q.v.) in 
March 624 (I.E. The scholars defined 
Muhammad's policy until the break as 
dedicated to attempts at gaining the sup- 
port of the Jews. An extra-qur'anic docu- 
ment known as the Constitution of 
Medina (recorded in Ibn Ishaq, Sira, ii, 
147-50), which is relatively favorable to the 
Jews, was dated to this stage. The reason 
for the "break" with the Jews, according to 
the scholars, was the Jewish reluctance to 



respond to Muhammad's appeal. Conse- 
quently, the Prophet changed his attitude 
towards them and embarked on a military 
offensive against them. This narrative runs 
parallel to the supposed evolution of the 
idea of holy war [jihad, q.v.). The scholars 
have built into this narrative of escalating 
conflict the various qur'anic verses about 
the Jews. Broadly speaking, verses relatively 
tolerant of the Jews were marked by the 
scholars as early Medinan (see chron- 
ology and the qur'an), assuming that 
they were revealed before the break. The 
break is reflected in qur'anic passages 
about the military clash with the People 
of the Book, as well as in the verses about 
the new qibla and the non-Jewish/non- 
Ghristian identity of Abraham. In view 
of doubts raised more recently by some 
scholars, however, who suggested that the 
Qur'an gained its final shape much later 
than in the days of Muhammad and per- 
haps not even in Arabia (cf. Wansbrough, 
qs; see post-enlightenment academic 
study of the qur'an), the historicity of 
the supposed relations between Muham- 
mad and the Jews is no longer self-evident. 
One cannot rule out the possibility that at 
least some components of the narrative of 
the "break" with the Jews stem from post- 
conquest conditions that were projected 
back into Muhammad's time. 

Uri Rubin 

Kitab al-Maghazi, in ijmes 28 (1996), 463-89; 
M. Gil, The origin of the Jews of Yathrib, in 
jsai 4 (1984), 203-24; S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs. 
Their contacts through the ages, New York 1974; G.R. 
Hawting, al-Mukhtar b. Abl 'Ubayd, in El 2 , vii, 
521-4; M.G.S. Hodgson, c Abd Allah b. Saba 1 , in 
Ei 2 ; i, 51; R.S. Humphreys, Islamic history. A frame- 
work for inquiry, Minneapolis 1988 (especially 
255-83), Princeton 1991 (rev. ed.); M.J. Kister, 
The massacre of the Banii Qurayza, in JSA18 
(1986), 61-96; Lane; M. Lecker, Jews and Arabs in 
pre- and early Islamic Arabia, Aldershot 1998; id., 
Muslims, Jews and pagans. Studies on early Islamic 
Medina, Leiden 1995; B. Lewis, The Jews of Islam, 
Princeton 1984; A. Noth, Abgrenzungsprobleme 
zwischen Muslimen und nicht-Muslimen. Die 
"Bedingungen 'Umars (al-shurut at-'um.ariyya)" 
unter einem anderen Aspect gelesen, in JSAI 9 
(1987), 290-315; Paret, Kommentar; U. Rubin, 
Between Bible and Qur'an. The Children of Israel and 
the Islamic self-image, Princeton 1999; id., The 
constitution of Medina. Some notes, in si 62 
(1985), 5-23; id., Qur'an and tafsir. The case of 
'anyadin, in Der Islam 70 (1993), 133-44; M. Schol- 
ler, Exegetisches Denken und Prophetenbiographie: eine 
quellenkritische Analyse der Sira-Uberlieferung zu 
Muhammads Konflikt mit denjuden, Wiesbaden 
1998; id., Sua and tafsir. Muhammad al-Kalbl 
on the Jews of Medina, in H. Motzki (ed.), The 
biography of Muhammad. The issue of the sources, 
Leiden 2000, 18-48; R.B. Serjeant, The Sunnah 
Jami'ah, pacts with the Yathrib Jews, and the 
Tahnm of Yathrib. Analysis and translation of 
the documents comprised in the so-called 
"Gonstitution of Medina," in bsoas 41 (1978), 
1-42; G. Vajda, Juifs et musulmans selon le hadit, 
in ja 229 (1937), 57-127; Wansbrough, qs; S.M. 
Wasserstrom, Between Muslim and Jew. The problem 
of symbiosis under early Islam, Princeton 1995; 
W.M. Watt, Muhammad at Medina, Oxford 1956 
(especially 192-220); A.J. Wensinck, Muhammad 
and the Jews of Medina, trans, and ed. W. Behn, 
Freiburg im Breisgrau 1975. 

Primary: Bukharl, Sahih, 9 vols., Gairo 1958; Ibn 
Hanbal, Musnad, 6 vols., repr. Beirut 1978; Ibn 
Ishaq, Sira, ed. Mustafa al-Saqqa et al., repr. 
Beirut 1971 ; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ahkam 
ahl al-dhimma, ed. Y al-Bakrl and Sh. al-ArurT, 
Riyadh 1997; SuyutT, Dun. 

Secondary: C. Adang, Muslim writers on Judaism 
and the Hebrew Bible. From Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm, 
Leiden 1996; A. Barakat, Muhammad and the Jews, 
New Delhi 1979; R.S. Faizer, Muhammad and 
the Medinanjews. A comparison of the texts of 
Ibn Ishaq's Kitab Sirat rasul Allah with al-Waqidi's 

Jlbril see GABRIEL 


A word of uncertain etymology, the noun 
jibt occurs only once in the Qur'an, but is 
also used in poetry and prophetic tradi- 
tions from the early Islamic centuries (see 




qjjr'an). Generally, jibt has three possible 
meanings: it is used to describe any false 
object of belief or worship (see idols and 
images), an individual who exceeds all 
bounds of propriety (see moderation) or a 
state of oppression (q.v.) and injustice 
[Lisan al-'Arab, ii, 164; Taj al-'arus, iii, 32; 
see justice and injustice). It is men- 
tioned in Q_ 4:51 in the context of con- 
demning those People of the Book (q.v.) 
who gave credence to the unbelievers (see 
belief and unbelief) and attempted to 
incite them against Muslims. 

Some early authorities asserted that the 
word passed into Arabic from the language 
of the Habasha (i.e. Ethiopic: that of the 
former inhabitants of today's Sudan and 
Ethiopia; see Abyssinia; foreign vocab- 
ulary; cf. Jeffery, For. vocah, 99-100; 
Suyuti, Muhadhdhab, 204), where, report- 
edly, it meant "sorcery" or "a demon" (see 
magic; devil). Other authorities main- 
tained that the word was derived from the 
Arabic term jibsun, meaning "a person of 
ill repute and character" (Mawardi, Nukat, 
i, 494-5; 'Abd al-Rahlm, Tafsir, i, 284). In 
the Qur'an and in numerous theological 
works, jibt is most often correlated with the 
word tdghut (al-jibt wa-l-tcighut), an expres- 
sion that means divination (q.v.), sorcery or 
idol worship (see idolatry and idolat- 
ers). Some commentators on the Qur'an 
(see exegesis of the cjur'an: classical 
and medieval) claimed that jibt and tdghut 
were the names of two idols worshipped by 
the Quraysh (q.v.) in Mecca (q.v.; Qurtubl, 
Jdmi', v, 248-9; Qasimi, Tafsir, iii, 172). 
Others claimed that jibt referred to a spe- 
cific person named Huyayy b. Akhtab 
while tdghut referred to Ka'b b. al-Ashraf, 
two Jewish leaders who, after the battle of 
Uhud (see expeditions and battles), 
went to Mecca in order to conspire with 
the Quraysh to destroy the Muslims in 
Medina (q.v.; Tabari, Tafsir, viii, esp. 461-5, 
469-70 [ad o_ 4:51]; Ibn Kathlr, Tafsir, 

adloc; see jews and Judaism; opposition 
to muhammad). Still other authorities 
maintained that jibt means sorcery or divi- 
nation while tdghut means a sorcerer or 
diviner (Zamakhshari, Kashslidf i, 274; Ibn 
'Adil, Lubdb, vi, 420-2). The influential pre- 
modern jurist and theologian, Fakhr al-Din 
al-Razi (d. 606/1210; Tafsir, v, 103-4), as ~ 
serted that the expression has come to 
describe any condition of extreme evil (see 
GOOD AND evil) and corruption (q.v.). 

Khaled M. Abdu El Fadl 

Primary: M. "Abd aI-RariTm 3 "Tafsir al-Hasan al- 
Basri, 2 vols., Cairo n.d.; Ibn 'Adil, Abu Hals 
'Urnar b. c All, al-Lubab ji 'ulum al-kitab, ed. C A.A. 
( Abd al-Mawjud and 'A.M. Mu'awwad, 20 vols., 
Beirut 1998; Ibn Kathlr, Tafsir; Lisan al-'Arab, Bei- 
rut 1997^; Mawardi, Nukat; QasimI, Tafsir, Beirut 
1997; Qurtubl, Jami ( ; RazT, Tafsir, 32 vols, in 16, 
Beirut 1990; Tabari, Tajsir, ed. Shakir; Taj al- 
'arus, Beirut 1994; Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, 4 vols., 
Beirut n.d. 

Secondary: T. Fahd, Le pantheon de I'arabie centrale 
a la vielle de Vhegire, Paris 1968, 240 n. 2 (onjibt 
and tdghut); G. Hawting, The idea of idolatry and the 
emergence of Islam, London 1999, 56-7; T. Noldeke, 
Neue Beitrage zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft, 
Strassburg 1910, 47-8 (for an Ethiopic origin of 
jibt; taghut is clisussed on p. 48); Paret, Kommentar, 
96 (discussion of an Ethiopic origin of jibt). 


Struggle, or striving, but often understood 
both within the Muslim tradition and 
beyond it as warfare against infidels (see 
fighting; war; belief and unbelief). 
The term jihad derives from the root j-h-d, 
denoting effort, exhaustion, exertion, 
strain. Derivatives of this root occur in 
forty-one qur'anic verses. Five of these 
contain the phrase jahd aymdnihim, meaning 
"[to swear] the strongest oath," which is 
irrelevant to the present discussion (see 
oaths), and not all the remaining verses 
refer to warfare. 



Since the concept of jihad is related 
to warfare, discussions of the subject 
often contain explicit or implicit value- 
judgments and apologetics. In fact, the 
subjects of jihad and warfare in Islam are 
always treated as one. There are, however, 
two reasons to discuss them separately. 
First, jihad is a concept much broader than 
warfare. Secondly, the doctrine of warfare 
can be derived from the Qur'an without 
resorting to the term jihad at all. There- 
fore, in this article the derivatives of the 
root j-h-d in the Qur'an will be discussed 
first, followed by a survey of the doctrine 
of warfare as expressed in the Qur'an. 

The root j-h-d and its derivatives in the Qur'an 
The root j-h-d does not have bellicose con- 
notations in pre-Islamic usage (see PRE- 
by linguistic criteria alone (see language 
and STYLE OF THE qjur'an), without hav- 
ing recourse to qur'anic exegesis (see 
medieval), only ten out of the thirty-six 
relevant qur'anic references can be 
unequivocally interpreted as signifying 
warfare. The rest are unspecified, some 
of them clearly denoting efforts or strug- 
gles other than fighting. The following 
guidelines help determine whether or not 
the term j-h-d in a given verse refers to 

(a) when the term is juxtaposed with a 
military idiom, such as "shirkers" [mukhal- 
lafiin, qa'idun, Q_ 4:95; 9:81, 86) or "go on 
raids" (infiru, Q_ 9:41; see expeditions and 
battles). Verses in which j-h-d is con- 
nected to "asking leave/finding excuses" 
(isti'dhdn) also seem to be dealing with war- 
fare (q_ 9:44; cf. 9:86, which combines both 
"ask leave" and "shirkers"); 

(b) when the content of the verse dis- 
closes its military significance (q 5:54, 
where there is a linkage between harshness 

towards unbelievers, fearlessness and j-h-d; 
Q_ 60:1, where "enemies" [q.v.] and depart- 
ing for jihad are mentioned); 

(c) when the context of the verse indicates 
a military significance. Textual context is 
difficult to use because of the methods of 
assembling the text to which the history of 
the collection of the Qur'an (q.v.) attests. 
As indicated in this history, verses that 
were revealed on different occasions (see 
occasions of revelation; chronology 
and THE qur'an) were placed in sequence. 
Sometimes, fully contradictory verses were 
placed together, apparently because they 
deal with the same topic (e.g. Q_ 2:190-3; 
8:72-5). Occasionally, however, the continu- 
ity between sequential verses is clear and 
the textual context may be used to clarify 
the warlike intention of a verse (q_ 9:41, the 
context being 9:38-41; Q_ 9:44, the context 
being 9:44-6; these two verses also fall 
under category (a) above; Q_ 9:88, the con- 
text being 9:87-92); 

(d) when j-h-d in the third form is fol- 
lowed by a direct object. It denotes, liter- 
ally, two parties, each trying to exhaust the 
other, hence the notion of combat (q 9:73 
= 66:g; but cf. q_ 25:52, wa-jdhidhum bihi 

jihddan kabiran, where the Prophet is 
instructed to combat by peaceful means, 
namely, by the Qur'an; see debate and 

In sum, there are only ten places in the 
Qur'an where J-h-d definitely denotes war- 
fare. To these may be added four verses 
that establish the status of "those who 
believed, emigrated (see emigration) and 
exerted themselves" (inna lladhina dmanu 
wa-hdjaru wa-jdhadu, Q_ 8:72, 74; 9:20; cf. 
8:75). Since warfare is strongly advocated 
in the Qur'an, it stands to reason that ref- 
erences to the high status of the "strug- 
glers" (mujdhidun) are, in fact, references to 
warriors. It is clear, however, that in these 
verses the reference is to the Emigrants 



[muhajirun, see emigrants and helpers). It 
may be pointed out that sometimesj-A-rf 
occurs as the counterpart of hijra, "emigra- 
tion," presumably the Muslims' emigration 
to Medina (q.v.; Q_ 2:218; 8:72-5; 9:20; 
16:110, cf. 9:24). Strangely, there is no 
qur'anic reference to the military contribu- 
tion or warlike attributes of the Helpers 
(ansar, i.e. those Medinans who helped the 
emigres; such references do, however, 
abound in the historical and hadith litera- 
ture; see hadith and the qur'an). 

There is one case wherej-A-rf is applied to 
an impious struggle, namely, the struggle of 
disbelieving parents (q.v.) to prevent their 
offspring (see children; family) from 
adhering to the true religion (q.v.; o_ 29:8). 

But in many verses it is not possible to 
determine the kind of effort indicated by 
j-h-d. There are many commentators who 
leave the terms unspecified in these 
instances, whereas others interpret also 
these ambiguous cases as warfare against 
infidels (see commentaries to o 2:218; 
3 :i 42; 5 : 35; 9 :i 6, 19, 20, 24; 16:110; 29:6, 
69; 47:31; 61:11). Still others understand the 
doubtful cases in one or more of the fol- 
lowing ways: (a) combat against one's own 
desires and weaknesses (see sin, major and 
minor), (b) perseverance in observing the 
religious law (see law and the qjjr'an), 
(c) seeking religious knowledge (talab al- 'Urn, 
see knowledge and learning), (d) obser- 
vance of the sunna (q.v.), (e) obedience 
(q.v.) to God and summoning people to 
worship him, and so on (see e.g. Khazin, 
Lubdb, v, 200; Ibn Abl Hatim, Tafsrr, ix, 
3084). All these meanings, however, are 
never explicit in the Qur'an. Also, the 
phrases denoting the "greater" jihad (i.e. 
one's personal struggle to be a better Mus- 
lim) that are common in later literature, 
namely, "struggle of the self" (jihad al-nafs) 
or "struggle with the devil" [jihad 
al-shaytdn, see devil), do not occur in the 

Qur'an (see theology and the qur'an; 


The qur'anic concept of jihad was not 
originally connected with antagonism 
between the believers and other people. 
The semantic field of the root j-h-d as well 
as its use in the Qur'an suggest another 
provenance. It may be an expression of the 
ancient and ubiquitous notion that the 
believers must prove to the deity their wor- 
thiness for divine reward (see reward and 
punishment; martyrs). This proof is 
achieved by enduring various kinds of 
hardships and self-mortification. Fasting 
and pilgrimage belong to this category as 
do celibacy and poverty. Conversely, hard- 
ships that befall the believers are under- 
stood as divine tests designed to provide 
the believers with opportunities to prove 
themselves worthy (see trial). These 
ancient religious ideas found expression in 
the Qur'an. God announces many times 
that he subjects the believers to tests and 
he reprimands those who are not able, or 
not willing, to endure (e.g. o_ 2:155-6, 214; 
3:142; 4:48; 47:4; see trust and patience; 

Islam, in addition to giving the believers 
the opportunity to prove themselves, the 
tests also help establish the distinction 
between the true believers on the one 
hand, and the pretenders and the unbeliev- 
ers on the other (see hypocrites and 
hypocrisy). The tests also help determine 
the relative status of the members of the 
community (see community and society 
in THE qur'an). One of the means of test- 
ing is jihad. In this capacity jihad may 
mean participation in warfare, but also any 
other effort made in connection with 
adherence to the true religion (see Q 3:142; 
9:16; 47:31; cf. Q 9:24, 44, 88. Only Q 9:44 
and 9:88 certainly refer to warfare, judging 
by the context. See also Q 4:76-7, 95-6; 
9:90-4; 29:10-1; 47:20; 49:14-5; 57:10, 25.). 



Sometimes not jihad but death (see death 
and the dead) or battle (qital) "in the way 
of God" are explicitly mentioned as a test 
(o 3:166-7; 47:4; cf. 3:154-5; 4:66; 33:11, 


Very little of the peaceful sense of j-h-d 
remained in Muslim culture and the 
understanding of jihad as war became pre- 
dominant. Nevertheless, there are verses in 
the Quran that attest to other significa- 
tions. The best example is o_ 22:78. By lin- 
guistic and contextual criteria, the phrase 
"exert yourself in the way of God as is his 
right" ( llahi haqqa jihadihi) 
clearly does not refer to warfare, but to 
other forms of effort made by way of obe- 
dience to God. The verse is part of the 
doctrine of the "religion of Abraham" 
(millat Ibrahim), which regards the patriarch 
as the first, original Muslim (see Q_ 2:125-36; 
see Abraham; hanif). q_ 22:78 instructs 
Muslims to perform the religious duties 
originally prescribed to Abraham. While 
asking the believers to exert themselves and 
to do their utmost to this end (jahidu), the 
verse points out that the requirement 
should not be deemed too much to ask, 
since God "has laid no hardship on you in 
your religion." The theme of war is not 
touched upon at all in this verse. In the 
same vein, Q_ 49:15 deals with definitions of 
belief and the phrase "those who strive" 
(alladhina. . . jahadu) apparently refers not to 
warriors but to those who perform all the 
divine ordinances (cf. BaydawT, Anwar, ii, 
277). Yet many commentators (including 
al-Tabarl, d. 310/923) insist that in these 
two cases the term refers to participation 
in warfare. 

The warlike meaning of jihad thus pre- 
dominates, to the extent that q-t-l, "kill," 
was sometimes glossed hy j-h-d (e.g. 
Baydawi, Anwar, i, 105, ad o_ 2:190). This 
predominance is perhaps to be explained 
by the fact that in this sense of "war," jihad 
was given a legal definition, legal catego- 

ries and regulations, aspects which were 
discussed at length by the jurists (who 
often, however, used the term siyar instead 
of jihad). Also the parallelism between the 
qur'anic phrases jihad "in the way of God" 
(fi sabili llah) and qital "in the way of God" 
may have contributed to the equation of 
J-h-d with terms of warfare. In fact the 
phrase "in the way of God" itself came to 
mean "warfare against infidels," although 
it is not necessarily so in the Qur'an (see 
e.g. "emigration in the way of God" in 
£4:100; 16:41; 22:58; 24:23). 

The doctrine of warfare in the Qur'an 
Islam is a system of beliefs, ritual and law 
(see faith; ritual and the qur'an) and 
its legal system covers all spheres of life, 
including warfare. Many rulings and atti- 
tudes relating to warfare are scattered 
throughout the Qur'an, mainly in the 
Medinan suras. Yet, derivatives of the root 
J-h-d are absent from the majority of these 
verses. Forms of the root q-t-l are used 
forty-four times in relation to warfare 
(although derivatives of this root are also 
used in other contexts). In addition, there 
are many verses relating to this subject in 
which neither j-h-d nor q-t-l occur. 

The qur'anic rulings and attitudes 
regarding warfare are often ambiguous 
and contradictory so that there is no one 
coherent doctrine of warfare in the 
Qur'an, especially when the text is read 
without reference to its exegetical tradi- 
tion. These contradictions and ambiguities 
resulted from historical developments and 
were later amplified by differences of opin- 
ion among exegetes. The Prophet led a 
dynamic career, having been at war for 
years with various enemies and under 
changing circumstances. Such variations 
and developments are doubtlessly reflected 
in qur'anic verses and account for some of 
the contradictions. The course of these 
developments, however, is not clear, for 



the same reasons that obstruct a decisive 
reconstruction of the Prophet's biography 
(see sira and the qur'an; muhammad). In 
addition, differences of opinion eventually 
arose due to the various possibilities of 
interpretations. The language of the 
Qur'an is often obscure and, even when 
not so, many terms, phrases and sentences 
have more than one possible meaning or 
implication. For example, the sentence "we 
have our endeavors (a'mal), you have 
yours" (o_ 2:139; 42:15; cf. 10:41; 109:6) may 
be interpreted in several ways: (a) it enjoins 
tolerance towards other religions (see 
(b) it merely states a fact, (c) it constitutes a 
threat, or (d) it employs "endeavors" but 
means "reward for the endeavors," in 
which case it is also merely a statement of 
a fact, not an implied imperative. The first 
of these interpretations contradicts the 
qur'anic order to initiate war against the 
infidels (rj 2:191, 193, 244; 8:39; 9:5, 29, 36 
etc.; see e.g. Ibn al-Jawzi, JVawdsikh, 175-6, 
440; T a barT, Tafslr, xi, 118-9). Another 
example is Q 2:190 (cf. 2:194). It contains 
the seemingly clear phrase "fight in the 
way of God those who fight you and do 
not trespass" (see boundaries and pre- 
cepts). This may be taken either as pre- 
scribing defensive war or as an instruction 
to refrain from harming non-combatants 
(see e.g. Jassas, ^4Mam, i, 257). The former 
contradicts the above-mentioned qur'anic 
order to initiate war. These are only two of 
a multitude of examples. 

Commentators developed special tech- 
niques to deal with qur'anic contradictions, 
chief among them abrogation (q.v; naskli) 
and specification {'amm wa-khass, literally 
"general versus specific"). Abrogation seeks 
to replace the rulings of certain verses by 
others, on the grounds that the latter were 
revealed to the Prophet later than the for- 
mer. Specification is designed to restrict or 
ban certain injunctions and prohibitions. 

This is done by establishing that the verse 
in question only applies to a definite group 
or to a specific event in the past. In con- 
trast to abrogation, specification often 
occurs without the use of the technical 
terms 'amm and khass. 

A rarely applied, but very significant de- 
vice, is the assignation of differing qur'anic 
rules to different situations. Whereas the 
techniques of abrogation and specification 
aim at distilling one absolutely binding rule 
out of a number of possibilities, the tech- 
nique of assignation leaves open a number 
of options and allows the authorities the 
power to decide which of the mutually- 
exclusive qur'anic rules applies in a given 
situation. There are other exegetical 
devices used in order to resolve contradic- 
tions, such as denying linguistically possible 
implications (e.g. for o_ 2:62), "supplement- 
ing" verses [taqdlr, e.g. for Q_ 10:41) and 
assigning appropriate contents to qur'anic 
words (e.g. equating the term silm/salm, 
"peace," with Islam, for Q_ 2:208 and 8:61, 
see T a barl, Tafsir, ii, 322-5; x, 34). 

The verses relating to warfare may be 
classified under the following headings: 
(a) the order to fight, (b) exhortations (q.v.), 
(c) the purpose of warfare, (d) conscription, 
(e) permission to retreat, (f ) the treatment 
of prisoners (q.v.; see also hostages; 
captives), and (g) booty (q.v.). There are 
also miscellaneous practical and tactical 
instructions. The first topic is covered by a 
large number of verses, whereas the rest 
are confined to a few verses each. 

The order to fight involves the issue of 
attitudes towards the other. Muslim schol- 
ars considered more than one hundred 
verses as relevant to this topic. Even an 
address to the Prophet such as "you are 
merely a warner" (q.v.; o_ 11:12) was some- 
times understood as an implicit instruction 
to leave the infidels alone. Thus the verses 
expressing attitudes towards the infidels 
include explicit or implicit instructions to 



the Prophet, or to the Muslims, which may 
be defined as follows: (a) to be patient and 
to stay aloof from the infidels (o 2:139; 
3:20, in; 4:80-1; 5:99, 105; 6:66, 69, 70, 
104; 7:180, 199; 10:99, 108-9; 11:121-2; 
i3 : 4o; 15:3, 94-5; J 6:82; 17:54; 19:84; 20:130; 
22:68; 23:54; 24:54; 25:43; 27:92; 29:50; 
30:60; 31:23; 32:30; 33:48; 34:25; 35:23; 

37 :i 74; 38:70; 39 :i 5; 40:55, 77; 42:6, 48; 

43:83; 44:59; 46:35; 50:45; 5 i: 54; 52:3!. 45. 
48; 53:29; 54:6; 68:44, 48; 70:5, 42; 73:10-1; 
74:11; 76:24; 88:22), (b) to forgive them or 
treat them kindly (o_ 2:109; 5:13; 15:85; 
43:89; 45:14; 60:8-9; 64:14; see forgive- 
ness; mercy), (c) to tolerate them (q_ 2:62, 
256; 5:69, but cf. 3:19; 5:82; see tolerance 
and compulsion), (d) to preach or argue 
with them peaceably (o_ 3:64; 4:63; 16:64, 
125; 29:46; 41:34; see invitation), and (e) 
to fight them under certain restrictions 

(a 2:190, 191-4. 217; 4:91; 9:36, 123; 16:126; 

22:39-40). There are also qur'anic refer- 
ences to treaties with infidels and to peace 
(q_ 2:208; 4:90; 8:61; cf. o_ 3:28; 47:35; see 
contracts and alliances). All these are 
in conflict with the clear orders to fight, 
expressed in o_ 9:5 and 9:29 (cf. o_ 2:244). 
o 9:5 instructs the Muslims to fight the 
idolaters (mushrikun) until they are con- 
verted to Islam and is known as "the sword 
verse" [ayat al-sayf, see polytheism and 
atheism), o 9:29 orders Muslims to fight 
the People of the Book (q.v.) until they con- 
sent to pay tribute (jizya, see POLL tax), 
thereby recognizing the superiority of 
Islam. It is known as "the jizya verse" [ayat 
al-jizya, occasionally also as "the sword 
verse"). The Qur'an does not lay down 
rules for cases of Muslim defeat, although 
there is a long passage discussing such an 
occurrence (o_ 3:139-75, see also 4:104; see 

A broad consensus among medieval exe- 
getes and jurists exists on the issue of wag- 
ing war. The simplest and earliest solution 

of the problem of contradictions in the 
Qur'an was to consider o_ 9:5 and 9:29 as 
abrogating all the other statements. Schol- 
ars seem sometimes to have deliberately 
expanded the list of the abrogated verses, 
including in it material that is irrelevant to 
the issue of waging war (e.g. o_ 2:83, see 
Ibn al-Barzi, J\asikh, 23; Ibn al-jawzl, 
Musajja, 14; iA.,Nawasikh, 156-8; Baydawi, 
Anwar, i, 70; T a barl, Tafsir, i, 311; other 
examples: Q_ 3:111; 4:63; 16:126; 23:96; 
25:63; 28:55; 38:88; 39:3). The number of 
verses abrogated by o_ 9:5 and 9:29 is some- 
times said to exceed 120 (Ibn al-Barzi, 
Masikh, 22-3 and passim; also Powers, Exe- 
getical genre, 138). Several verses are con- 
sidered as both abrogating and abrogated, 
in turn, by others. The Muslim tradition, 
followed by modern scholars (see post- 
enlightenment ACADEMIC STUDY OF THE 
qjjr'an), associated various verses with 
developments in the career of the Prophet. 
It is related that, in the beginning, God 
instructed the Prophet to avoid the infidels 
and to forgive them. The Prophet was 
actually forbidden to wage war while in 
Mecca (q.v.). After the emigration to 
Medina (hijra) the Muslims were first per- 
mitted to fight in retaliation for the injus- 
tice (see justice AND injustice) done them 
by the Meccans (p_ 22:39-40). Then came 
the order to fight the infidels generally, yet 
certain restrictions were prescribed. Even- 
tually all restrictions were removed and all 
treaties with infidels were repudiated by 
Q_ 9:1-14, and the ultimate divine orders 
were expressed in o_ 9:5 and 9:29. (There 
are many versions of this scheme, see 
Abdallah b. Wahb, Jami', fol. 15b; Abu 
'Ubayd, Nasikh, 190-7; Baydawi, Anwar, i, 
634; Khazin, Lubdb, i, 168; Shafi'i, Tafsir, 
166-73; J a §? as > Ahkam, i, 256-63; cf. Ibn 
al-jawzl, Nawasikh, 230.) This evolutionary 
explanation relies on the technique of 
abrogation to account for the contradic- 



tory statements in the Qur'an. Although 
details are disputed, this explanation is not 
a post-qur'anic development constructed 
retrospectively (see Firestone, Jihad, esp. 
chaps. 3-4). In addition to its obvious 
rationality, this evolution is attested in the 
Qur'an itself (o_ 4:77). Many exegetes, how- 
ever, avoided the technique of abrogation 
for theological and methodological rea- 
sons, but achieved the same result by other 
means (e.g. Ibn al-jawzl, Mawdsikh). Thus, 
in spite of differences of opinions regard- 
ing the interpretation of the verses and the 
relations between them, the broad consen- 
sus on the main issue remained: whether 
by abrogation, specification or other tech- 
niques, the order to fight unconditionally 
(o_ 9:5 and 9:29) prevailed. Some commen- 
tators, however, argued that the verses 
allowing peace (o_ 4:90; 8:61) were neither 
abrogated nor specified, but remained in 
force. By the assignation technique, peace 
is allowed when it is in the best interest of 
the Muslims (e.g. in times of Muslim weak- 
ness, see e.g. Jassas,^4Mam, ii, 220; hi, 
69-70). In fact this was the position 
adopted by the four major schools of law 
(see Peters, Jihad, 32-7). 

Exhortations to battle occur many times 
in the Qur'an and the Prophet is told to 
urge his followers to fight (p_ 4:84; 8:65). In 
addition to the verses that contain various 
instructions, there are those that promise 
reward to warriors and reprimand shirk- 
ers, threatening them with God's wrath 
(Q. 2:154; 3 :i 95; 4 : 74> 104; 9:38-9, 88-9, 
11 1; 22:58-9; 33:23-4; 61:10-3; see also 
Q. 3 :i 39"75> which encourages the Muslims 
after a defeat). The verses that establish 
the distinction between true believers and 
hypocrites (see above) may also serve the 
same end. 

In a few verses, the cause or purpose of 
Muslim warfare is mentioned as self- 
defense, and retaliation for aggression, for 

the expulsion from Mecca and for the vio- 
lation of treaties (o_ 2:217; 4:84, 91; 5:33; 
9:12-3; 22:39-40; 60:9, cf. 4:89). In one 
case, defense of weak brethren is adduced 
On the basis of the "sword verse" (p_ 9:5) 
and the "jizya verse" (o_ 9:29) it is clear that 
the purpose of fighting the idolaters is to 
convert them to Islam, whereas the pur- 
pose of fighting the People of the Book is 
to dominate them. Many commentators 
interpret o_ 2:193 and 8:39 ("fight them 
until there is no fitna") as an instruction to 
convert all the polytheists to Islam by force 
if need be (e.g. Khazin, Lubdb, ii, 183; 
Jassas, Ahkdm, i, 260). It appears, however, 
that fitna (see dissension; parties and 
factions) originally did not mean polythe- 
ism, but referred to attempts by infidels to 
entice Muslims away from Islam. Such 
attempts are mentioned in many qur'anic 
verses (e.g. Q_ 3:149; 14:30; 17:73-4; for 
o 2:193 see e.g. T aDarl , Tafsir, ii, 254; see 
apostasy). Thus the purpose of war in 
p_ 2:193 and 8:39 would be not conversion 
of infidels, but the preservation of the 
Muslim community. Conversion as the 
purpose of Muslim warfare is also implied 
by some interpretations of Q_ 2:192 and 
48:16. In later literature the formulation of 
the purpose of war is "that God's word 
reign supreme" (li-takuna kalimatu lldhi hiya 
l-'ulya), but in the Qur'an this phrase is not 
associated with warfare (o_ 9:40; cf. 9:33 — 
61:9; 48:28). 

The verses relevant to conscription are 
o 2:216; 4:71; 9:39-41, 90-3, 120, 122; cf. 
o 48:17. The verses implying that only a 
part of the community is required to par- 
ticipate in warfare prevail over those that 
stipulate or imply general conscription (see 
'Abdallah b. Wahb, Jami', fol. i6a-b; Ibn 
al-JawzT, Nawasikh, 438; Baydawi, Anwar, i, 
405; Shafi'l, Tafsir, 140-1, 145, 148; Zuhri, 
.Nasikh, 28-g; see also Paret, Kommentar, 



215-6; id., Sure g, 122). In post-qur'anic 
legal idiom it is stated that warfare (jihad) is 
a collective duty (fard 'aid l-kifaya). 

Permission to retreat occurs three times. 
In o_ 8:15-6 retreat is forbidden unless it is 
intended to be temporary and is done for 
tactical reasons. These verses are consid- 
ered by some scholars to have been abro- 
gated by Q_ 8:65, which permits retreat only 
if the enemies outnumber the Muslims by 
more than ten times. This rule was, in 
turn, replaced by o_ 8:66, which reduces 
the proportion to two to one (Baydawl, 
Anwar, i, 361; Tabarl, TafsTr, ix, 200-3; Ibn 
al-JawzT, JVawdsikh, 415-8; Abu 'Ubayd, 
Ndsikh, 192-3). This issue is sometimes dis- 
cussed in relation to Q_ 2:195 as well. 

The taking of prisoners is forbidden in 
o 8:67 (see also o_ 8:70-1). This verse is con- 
sidered as abrogated by o_ 47:4, which 
allows the Muslims to take prisoners, to 
free them for no compensation at all or to 
do so in exchange for ransom (Qurtubl, 
Ahkdm, iv, 2884-7; vu > 6047-9; J&ssas, Ahkdm, 
hi, 71-4; Abu 'Ubayd, .Ndsikh, 209-16; 
Tabarl, Tafsir, x, 42-4). Nowhere in the 
Qur'an is there a reference to the permissi- 
bility (or otherwise) of executing prisoners. 
There is, however, disagreement among 
commentators regarding the apparent con- 
tradiction between Q_ 47:4 and the categori- 
cal order to kill the idolaters in o_ 9:5 (Ibn 
al-JawzT, Nawdsikh, 425-7; T a barl, Tafsir, x, 
80-1; xxvi, 40-3; Qurtubl, Ahkdm, vii, 
6047-8; Jassas, ^4Mam, iii, 390-2). Booty is 
discussed in cj 4:94; 8:1, 41, 68-9; 59:6-8 
and other practical matters relating to war 
occur in o_ 2:239; 4:101-3; 8:56-8, 60; 61:4. 

In the legal literature quranic verses are 
sometimes cited which appear to be irrele- 
vant to the discussions. Thus o_ 48:24-5 
were adduced in the discussion of non- 
discriminating weapons (ballista, manjaniq, 
e.g. Ibn Abl Zayd, Kitdb al-Jihdd, 70-1). 
o 59:5 was used in the discussion of the 
permissibility to destroy the enemy's prop- 

erty (e.g. T a barl, Tafsir, xxviii, 32). o 6:137 
was adduced as proof that no enemy- 
children should be killed (e.g. Shafi'T, 
Tafsir, 121). 

Finally, the origins of the notion of the 
sacredness of Islamic warfare should be 
mentioned. Although jihad and warfare 
are disparate concepts, only partly overlap- 
ping, both are endowed with sanctity. The 
sanctity of jihad was discussed above. The 
sacredness of warfare derives, first, from 
the causative link between warfare on the 
one hand, and divine command and divine 
decree on the other. Another source is the 
association of warfare with divine reward 
and punishment. The roles of warring as a 
divine test and as a pledge that the believ- 
ers give to God (p_ 33:15, 23) add another 
dimension to the sacredness of warfare. 
Finally, God's direct intervention in the 
military exploits of his community sancti- 
fies these exploits (o 3:13, 123-7; 8:7-12, 
V-i9> 26; 9 :i 4> 25-6, 40; W-9-w, 25-7; 
48:20-4; see badr). 

Ella Landau-Tasseron 

Primary: Abdallah b. Wahb, cd-fami, die 
Koranwissenschaften, ed. M. Muranyi, Wiesbaden 
1992; Abu 'Ubayd, al-Ndsikh wa-l-mansukh fi 
l-Quran al-'aziz, ed. M. al-Mudayfir, Riyadh 
1997; Baydawl, Anwar; Ibn Abl Hatim, 'Abd 
al-Rahman b. Muhammad, TafsTr al- Qur'an 
al-'azTm, ed. A.M. al-Tayyib, 9 vols., Mecca 1997; 
Ibn al-BarzI, Hibat Allah b. 'Abd al-Rahlm, 
Ndsikh al-Qur'dn al-'aziz wa-mansukhuhu, ed. H.S. 
al-Damin, Beirut 1989; Ibn al-jawzl, al-Musaffd 
bi-akuff ahl al-rusukh min ( ilm al-ndsikh wa-l- 
mansukh, ed. H.S. al-Damin, Beirut 1989; id., 
Nawdsikh al-Qur'an, ed. H.S. Asad al-DaranT, 
Damascus 1990; Ibn Shihab al-Zuhrf, al-Nasikh 
wa-l-mansukh, ed. H-S- al-Damin, Beirut 1988; 
Jassas, Ahkdm; Khazin, Lubdb, 7 vols., Cairo 1957; 
Qurtubl, Jami , 8 vols., Cairo n.d.; al-Shafi'T, 
Muhammad b. Idrls, Tafsir, comp. and ed. M. b. 
Sayyid al-Shura, Beirut 1995; TabarT, TafsTr, 30 
pts. in 12 vols., Cairo 1954-7. 

Secondary: T.J. Arnold, The preaching of Islam. A 
history of the propagation oj the Muslim faith, London 
1913 s ; H. Busse, The Arab conquest in revelation 



and politics, in ios 10 (1980), 14-20; R. Firestone, 

Jihad. The origin of holy war in Islam, New York 
1999; M.K. Haykal, al-Jihad wa-l-qitdlfi l-siydsati 
l-shar'iyya, Beirut 1996; A. A. JannatI, Defense and 
jihad in the Qur'an, in al-Tawhid 1 (1984), 39-54; 
M J. Kister, 'An yadin (Qur'an IX/29). An attempt 
at interpretation, in Arabic a 11 (1964), 272-8; 
A. Morabia, le Gihad dans VIslam medieval. Le 
"combat sacre" des origines ait XIT siecle, Paris 1986; 
M. Mutahhari, Jihad in the Qur'an, in M. Abedi 
and G. Legenhausen (eds.), Jihad and shahadat. 
Struggle and martyrdom in Islam, Houston 1986, 
81-124; A. Noth, Heiliger Krieg und heiliger R'ampf in 
Islam und Christentum, Bonn 1966; H.T. Obbink, 
De heilige oorlog volgens den Koran, Leiden 1901; 
Paret, Kommeniar; id., Sure 9, 122, in tit 2 (1953), 
232-6; R. Peters, Islam and colonialism. The doctrine 
of jihad in modern history, The Hague 1976; 
D. Powers, The exegetical genre nasikh al-Qur'an 
wa-mansukhuhu, in Rippin, Approaches, 117-38; 
'Abdallah b. Ahmad al-Qadirl, al-Jihad ft sabili 
lliih. Haqiqatuhu wa-ghqyatuhu 3 Jeddah 1992; 
U. Rubin, Bam a. A study of some qur'anic 
passages, in JSAI 5 (1984), 13-32; A. Sachedina, 
The development of jihad in Islamic revelation 
and history, in J.T.Johnson andj. Kelsay (eds.), 
Cross, crescent and sword, New York 1990, 35-50; 
A. Schleifer, Jihad and traditional Islamic con- 
sciousness, in IQ 27 (1983), 173-203; id., Under- 
standing jihad. Definition and methodology, in 
10 27 (1983), 118-31; F. Schwally, Der heilige 
Krieg des Islam in religionsgeschichtlicher und 
staatsrechtlicher Beleuchtung, in Internationale 
Monatsschrftfur Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik 6 
(1916), 689-714; W.M. Watt, Islamic conceptions 
of the holy war, in T.P. Murphy (ed.), The holy 
war, Columbus, OH 1976, 141-56; A.L. Wismar, 
A study in tolerance as practiced by Muhammad and his 
immediate successors, New York 1966. 


A category of created beings believed to 
possess powers for evil and good. Although 
their existence is never doubted, the jinn 
(Eng. "genie") are presented in the Qur'an 
as figures whose effective role has been 
considerably curtailed in comparison to 
that accorded to them by various forms of 
pre-Islamic religion. 

Unlike their rivals, the rabb and the rabba, 
the "lords" and "ladies," supernatural pro- 
tectors and "allies" (awliya') of the tribes 

(see tribes AND clans) that God, in the 
fullness of his lordship, succeeds in making 
disappear (o 53:23, "They are but names 
which you have named"), the jinn survive 
at the heart of the new religion. The 
Qur'an limits itself to denying them the 
greater part of their powers — those, at 
any rate, that they could have claimed 
from the lord of the Qur'an. In particular, 
they are shorn of their primordial function 
relative to humankind, that of uncovering 
the secrets (q.v.) of destiny (ghayb), thereby 
possessing knowledge of the future and of 
the world of the invisible (see hidden and 
the hidden; destiny; fate). In the 
account of the death of Solomon (q.v.; 
o 34:14), the jinn, having failed to grasp 
that the king is dead, continue to serve him 
in humility and abasement — thus demon- 
strating their ignorance of the ghayb. But 
the very fact that the Qur'an dispossesses 
them, allows, at the same time, for recogni- 
tion of their former role as mediators be- 
tween the invisible world and humankind. 
The Qur'an finds itself in the surprising 
position of having to come to terms with 
the jinn, i.e. subjecting them to its God, so 
powerful is the image they conjure up in 
popular imagination and local beliefs. In 
doing this, the text of the Qur'an permits 
us to confirm part of what has been sug- 
gested concerning the way in which the 
desert Arabs (see arabs; bedouin; pre- 

sixth century c.E. viewed their relationship 
to the jinn. 

Regarded as having lost their faculty of 
familiarity with the invisible, the jinn were 
also seen as having lost their "power" or 
"faculty of action" [sultan, e.g. Q_ 55:33). 
Sultan is the exclusive preserve of the God 
of the Qur'an, who dispenses it to whom- 
soever he wishes (p_ 14:11; 59:6; etc.; see 
POWER and impotence). He never dele- 
gates complete mastery to anyone, how- 
ever, since omnipotence remains one of 



his exclusive properties (see GOD AND his 
attributes). One should consider this 
assertion about the reduction of the jinn's 
powers in the light of the qur'anic denial 
of the powers attributed to magic (q.v.; 
sihr). The qur'anic allusions to magic seem 
to demand the presence of an initiator 
(himself human and dependent on a super- 
natural being) who "teaches" (yu 'allimu) it, 
that is — in this context — gives "guide- 
lines" (a'lam; cf. c) 2:102; 20:71). The people 
of Mecca called Muhammad the "lying 
sorcerer" (sahir kadhdhdb, o 38:4); he is de- 
nounced as "bewitched" (mashur, Q_ 17:47); 
he is said to be "possessed by jinn" (majnun, 
Q_ 15:6; see insanity; lie). In another pas- 
sage it is the "satans, devils" [shaydtin, the 
equivalent of the jinn in the Qur'an — see 
below) who "teach magic to men" [yu 'alli- 
muna l-ndsa l-sihar, o_ 2:102). Nonetheless, a 
pervasive sentiment that the jinn still need 
to be appeased can be seen in the persist- 
ent ritual sacrifices to the jinn, which have 
been more or less openly admitted until 
very recently among the desert shepherds. 
This demonstrates that the powers denied 
the jinn are nevertheless understood to 
remain vital despite the passage of centu- 
ries (e.g. the sacrifice of the tent reported 
by Jaussen, Coutumes, 339; Wellhausen, 
Reste, 151 also quotes the slightly earlier 
observations made by Doughty in Travels, 
ii, 629). 

Ethnographic research indicates that, 
despite the qur'anic statements to the con- 
trary, people continue to believe in the qui- 
etly disconcerting presence of these beings, 
who haunt the spaces to which people do 
not belong but through which they are 
nevertheless constrained to pass whenever 
going from place to place. Their vague 
hordes appear to be contained, rather than 
reduced to impotence, in those territories 
which belong to them and where humans 
are at constant risk of encountering them. 
An acknowledgment of divine omnipo- 
tence coexists in uneasy tension, within the 

minds of many Muslims, with the fear that 
the jinn remain as dangerous and as unpre- 
dictable to access as ever. 

The jinn most often figure in the Qur'an 
in the form of a collectivity. The other 
name applied to them is shaydtin, "satans, 
devils" (associated with the Eng. "de- 
mons"), a name whose semantic evolution 
from classical Greek is worthy of particular 
attention (see foreign vocabulary). The 
equivalence between the terms jinn and 
shaytdn, already familiar in pre-Islamic 
Arabia, is confirmed in the Qur'an with 
reference to the supernatural beings who 
are said to be in Solomon's service. They 
are indicated — indiscriminately — by 
both these terms: in Q_ 27:17, 39 and 34:12, 
14 it is the jinn who serve Solomon; but in 
Q_ 21:82 and 38:37 they are called shaydtin. 
Parallel to the use of their designation in 
the plural, the "satans" come to acquire 
the status of a proper name, "the Satan" 
(al-shaytdn), a rebel against God (q_ 17:27; 
19:44) and an enemy ('aduww) of people 
(e.g. Q_ 17:53, and numerous other places in 
the Qur'an; see devil). 

As regards Iblls, the qur'anic diabolos (lit. 
the Gk. term means "he who divides [by 
calumny]"; this is the Septuagint's transla- 
tion of the Heb. sdtan [derived from Job 1, 
"the adversary" or "the accuser" — in fact, 
he who proposes to put the just person to 
"the test"]), his qur'anic attestations are far 
less significant than either the singular or 
the plural occurrences of shaytdn. Iblls is of 
immediate interest in the context of the 
jinn, however, because he is identified as 
one of them in Q_ 18:50. Iblls enters the 
qur'anic discourse in the context of a par- 
ticular narrative, that of his refusal to pros- 
trate himself before Adam (see bowing 
Wensinck (Iblls) sees an origin of this ac- 
count in the Life of Adam and Eve (Kautsch, 
Apokryphen, § 15; also in Riessler, Altjudisches 
Schrifttum). It should be noted, though, that 
the more ancient "Vie Grecque d'Adam et 



Eve," presented in Dupont-Sommer and 
Philonenko (La Bible), does not contain the 
passage in question; in the Latin version, 
however, the "devil" (der Teufel) does reject 
any obligation to prostrate himself before 
Adam and refuses to obey the command of 
the archangel Michael (q.v.). The incident 
is placed after the account of the fall of 
man from the garden of Eden. In the 
account contained in the Qur'an, the order 
to prostrate comes directly from God with- 
out the archangel's (see angel) interven- 
tion. Iblis incurs divine wrath (see anger) 
upon his refusal and sees, at his own re- 
quest, his punishment "deferred" (ingdr 
or ta'khlr). He is appointed the "great 
tempter" (mughawwi or mughwi, see trial) 
of humankind until the resurrection (q.v.). 
In several passages in the Qur'an this 
sequence is placed before the account of 
the fall (hubut) of Adam, which is told only 
subsequently (see fall of man; garden). 
This is a reversal of the order of the 
pseudo-epigraphical texts noted above, in 
which the fall precedes the devil's confron- 
tation with God. Finally, it should be noted 
that the qur'anic tempter of Adam in the 
garden of paradise (q.v.) is always called 
shaytan and never Iblis. 

Does the juxtaposition of the two texts 
(that of the refusal on the part of Iblis and 
that of the fall of Adam) imply a continu- 
ity of the account or its re -working in the 
canonical text? The question should at 
least be asked. In several cases, passages 
dealing with Iblis are followed by the 
account of the fall (q 2:34; 7:11; 15:31, 32; 
17:61; 20:116; 26:95; 34:20; 38:74, 75). It is 
only in the single verse of q 18:50 that Iblis 
is designated expressly as a jinn. In the 
other passages he is depicted as a rebellious 
angel without, however, any explicit men- 
tion of his angelic nature; in fact, the text 
essentially states the following: the angels 
(mala'ika) prostrated themselves except Iblis 
(ilia Iblis) who refused. In q 38:76, Iblis, of 
whom it has just been said (q 38:73-4) that 

he alone among the angels refused, justifies 
his disobedience (q.v.) saying that he was 
created from ndr (the usual translation, but 
not necessarily appropriate here, is "fire"), 
and therefore he should not have to pros- 
trate himself before a creature "of clay" 
(q.v.; tin). Does this mean that it justifies his 
status as a jinn? According to local tradi- 
tions, the ndr from which the jinn are cre- 
ated (see below) most certainly does not 
correspond to "fire" (q.v.), while in the 
ancient tradition of the Near East — and, 
a fortiori, in the Bible — angelic nature is 
clearly "igneous" (cf. the Seraphim, etc.; if 
this meaning prevails, then Iblis could well 
be identified as an "angel," in the Near 
Eastern sense of the term). 

The Qur'an says nothing about the 
material from which the angels are created. 
The Islamic tradition regards them as 
being made from nur, the "cold light of the 
night," that of the moon (q.v.), which is 
also the light of guidance and of knowl- 
precisely the opposite of ndr, which is diur- 
nal and solar. As opposed to the jinn, who 
are incontestably figures from local beliefs, 
angels (malak, pi. mala'ika, lit. "envoys," 
from the root I- '-k) are not a local con- 
struct: they are attested in Ethiopic and 
Hebrew, as well as in inscriptions from 
northeastern Arabia. Although there may 
have been particular, local understandings 
of "angels," the qur'anic discourse on the 
subject is highly polemical. Perhaps, there- 
fore, the qur'anic "angels" should not be 
taken as referring to a local religion, as has 
sometimes been said in connection with a 
cult of the "daughters of Allah" — alleged 
to be the angels (see below). 

Despite the single occurrence in which 
Iblis, the "devil" of the Qur'an, is desig- 
nated a jinn — could this be an interpo- 
lation? — he would seem, thanks to his 
specific narrative insertion (i.e. his refusal 
to prostrate to Adam; his corrupting mis- 
sion is also biblical), to have origins clearly 



distinct from those of the local jinn/shay- 
tan. It is only at a later date, in the post- 
qur'anic Islamic tradition, that he is finally 
completely assimilated into al-shaytan, the 
"Satan" of the Qur'an as the prototype of 
all beings hostile to humankind. The two 
diabolical representations live on in Islamic 
tradition, enacting a complex destiny often 
in combination, or encounter, with other 
negative figures such as various sorts of 
dragons derived from the ancient Near 
Eastern traditions. The adventures as- 
cribed to them subsequently have little to 
do with their itinerary as stated in the 

Even if the jinn of the Qur'an are shown 
as deprived of part of their powers be- 
cause they no longer manage to uncover 
the secrets of heaven, they can nonetheless 
raise themselves up to heaven's gates (cf. 
p_ 15:18; 37:10; 72:8-9; see heaven and 
sky). The account of the heavenly ascen- 
sion of the jinn is obviously not com- 
manded by God — unlike the routes taken 
by the angels, which, just like those taken 
by men, must be marked with signposts 
(e.g. Q_ 15:14; see also the term sabab, pi. 
asbcib, used to designate the obligatory 
routes for both men and angels at 
Q 18:84-5, 89, 92; 40:36-7; it should be 
noted that, for the angels, the 'uruj is specif- 
ically a movement of "descending and re- 
ascending" at o_ 15:14; 32:5; 34:2; 57:4; 
70:4). But Islamic tradition has continued 
to recognize the jinn's ability to move in all 
spaces without needing to follow a trail. 
This mobility probably corresponds to an 
ancient local belief that has remained 
deeply embedded, namely that of the 
notion — vital in the society of sixth and 
seventh century Arabia — of movement 
from place to place and the concept of a 

Can it therefore be said that the represen- 
tation of the jinn contained in the Qur'an 

is essentially defensive and, in some ways, 
in continuity with the past? The Qur'an 
confirms the division of the earth into two 
territories — that of humankind and that 
of the jinn. The formula contained in the 
Qur'an, al-ins wa-l-jinn, "the humans and 
the jinn" (also, al-jinn wa-l-ins), is clearly 
dominant in the statements the Qur'an 
makes concerning the jinn for there are 
twenty examples of this conjunction of 
jinn and humanity (using the collective 
nounjinn: o_ 6:112, 128, 130; 7:38, 179; 
17:88; 27:17; 41:25, 29; 46:18; 51:56; 55:33; 
72:5, 6; using the singular jann employed as 
a collective noun: p_ 55:39, 56, 74; using the 
plural form al-jinna wa-l-nas, "jinn and peo- 
ple [or tribes]": p_ 11:119; 32:13; 114:6). The 
God of the Qur'an is presented as master 
of the two spaces. But the ancient repre- 
sentation of the co-existence of this funda- 
mentally bipartite division of the earth 
(q.v.) remains intact. 

With regard to shayatin al-insi wa-l-jinni at 
Q_ 6:112, "satanic men and jinn," it could be 
asked to what the "satanization" here 
evoked corresponds. Since the verse prob- 
ably belongs to the Medinan period (see 
doubtless be compared to the various pas- 
sages denouncing an "alliance" fwald') be- 
tween humans and the "demons" (shayatin), 
a designation that should be regarded as 
another name for the jinn: the infidels 
adopt these "demons" as allies (p_ 7:27, 30; 
cf. 17:27), but the alliance will in no case 
benefit them (p_ 2:16; see contracts and 
alliances; clients and clientage). 
There is also a series of occurrences where 
the alliance is with "the Satan," the term 
being used as a proper name. He is as 
much a betrayer of the cause of human- 
kind as are the "demons," and will lead 
people to their damnation (see reward 
and punishment): q_ 25:29 reflects this 
theme, that of khadhul, the "abandonment" 



of humanity by its pseudo-ally the Satan 
(see enemies). The same theme is to be 
found in Q_ 25:18 with the earlier deities 
designated periphrastically as "that which 
is adored apart from God" (see poly- 
theism and atheism). These passages 
correspond to the evolution of the demon- 
ology proper to the Quran, which ends up 
individualizing the satanic figure in a sym- 
bolic role that seems to condense together 
all the negative aspects of the "demons," 
variously named. Like an unavoidable 
figure of the anti-god he seems to remain 
capable of trapping humans (e.g. Q_ 27:24 
or 58:19). 

The theme of demonization and the 
accusation of pacts with the jinn apply 
specifically to the Medinan enemies of 
Muhammad (see Medina; opposition to 
muhammad), the "impious" (kdfirun, the 
ancient "ingrates" of tribal Arabia, "those 
who fail to recognize a benefit received"; 

ingratitude; blessing), the "hypocrites" 
(mundfiqun, formerly used of "cowards," 
and, as noted by Watt, also the term used 
to designate Muhammad's political ene- 
mies in Medina; see hypocrites and 
hypocrisy), or however they are named. 
It is a technique of qur'anic polemical dis- 
course (see polemic and polemical 
language) typical of the Medinan era, 
corresponding to conflict situations in 
which the religious argument often comes 
to the aid of the political (see politics and 
the our'an; language and style of the 
(jur'an). This is in contrast to the Meccan 
period, in which Muhammad is accused by 
his own of being "possessed by the jinn." 
The antithetical relationship between the 
jinn as negative allies and God as the only 
positive ally [wall, e.g. Q_ 4:45) lends itself to 
conjecture about a "cult" alleged to be 
devoted to the jinn. In particular, some 
qur'anic passages that discuss the jinn 

utilize terminology similar to that concern- 
ing the "service" rendered to God: i.e. 
'ibadat al-jinn (there is also a passage on the 
"service" devoted to Satan, c) 36:60). But, 
just like people, the jinn must adore God 
alone (o_ 51:56). Just like humans they are 
subjected to the last judgment (q.v.; 
o_ 37:158). Like the "people of the tribes" 
(nas), a number of them are destined for 
hell (q.v.; o_ 11:119; f° r further references 
to the infernal destiny of the jinn, see 
o 6:128; 7:38, 179; 32:13; 55:39). 

In the Qur'an, the theme of the nations 
that were destroyed because of their rebel- 
lion is also applied to the jinn (see punish- 
ment stories). One passage (q 6:130) 
attributes to the jinn, after the fashion of 
humans, "envoys from among you (min- 
kum)... who warned you" (see messenger; 
Warner), but this passage seems to have its 
origins in a form of rhetorical symmetry 
and nothing more is known about it (see 
form and structure of the qur'an; 
rhetoric of the qur'an). The disappear- 
ance of the "nations" (umam) of the jinn is 
also associated — without providing any 
further detail — with that of the human 
"nations" that have disappeared (q_ 41:25; 
46:18; cf. Q_ 7:38, where disappearance is 
associated with "hell" (nar); see genera- 
tions). This is probably an extrapolation 
of the Qur'an's discourse, bringing the 
punishment of the impious, of the deniers 
and of those who fail to recognize the 
"signs" (q.v; dydt) of God to its logical con- 
clusion. The jinn of the Qur'an again lose 
ground with reference to their previous 
status. They are reduced to sharing the 
eschatological destiny of humankind 
(see eschatology). 

In this type of passage it is impossible to 
distinguish that which has its origins in 
beliefs and practices evident in seventh- 
century Arabia from that which belongs to 
the Qur'an's polemical discourse and the 


controversy pursued with enemies in an 
attempt to confuse them by the force of 
words (cf o 2:14, where the hypocrites are 
with their "demons"; in o_ 6:121, it is these 
demons who push "their minions", i.e. 
Muhammad's adversaries, to "controversy" 
or "disputation," mujadala, see debate and 

It is also no easy task to uncover the real- 
ity of the belief that is being fought over in 
the tangled Meccan passages about a "cult 
of angels" f'ibadat al-mala'ika) — which 
seems to become confused with a cult of 
the jinn (p_ 34:41; cf. also the "invoca- 
tion," 'awdh, addressed to the jinn in 
o 72:6) — and about the representation of 
angels as "daughters" (bandt) of God 
(q 6:100; 16:57; 37:149, 153; 43:16; 52:39). In 
Q_ 37:150-2 it is a question of a belief in the 
fact that the lord is said to have procreated 
angels of the female gender (q.v.), while in 
verse 158 of the same sura, a form of "kin- 
ship" (nasab) is alleged between God and 
the jinn. In Q_ 6:100, the jinn are said to be 
"associates" (shuraka') of God while the 
"daughters of God" are once again 
evoked. It appears that in this polemic, 
pseudo-angelized figures are being reduced 
to jinn, the pseudo-angelized figures who, 
in the final analysis, would seem to be the 
tribes' local protecting goddesses who are 
to disappear slowly but surely under a vari- 
ety of disguises (see the remarks made by 
Wellhausen [Reste, 24] regarding the term 
"daughter of God," which he compares to 
the representation of the Beney Elohini). In 
all likelihood it is also a way of reducing 
them to a minor, subordinate role by 
declaring that, just like humans, they are 
"created beings." And yet their nature is 
stated to be different from that of human- 
kind. The Qur'an says that they are made 
from nar. The usual translation, "fire," 
probably makes no sense in the context. 
The image conjured up is that of a repre- 

sentation of wreaths of smoke and mirages 
of "the burning air of the solar day" and 
not that of flames. This metaphorical 
transposition could also be recognized in 
the numerous qur'anic uses of the concept 
of nar (regarding the nature of the jinn, 
see Q_ 15:27, "created from the fire of al- 
samum"; and o_ 55:15, min marijin min ndrin, 
a difficult formulation which would make 
the jinn "unformed beings created from 
the reverberated heat" and not, as in 
some translations — such as that of Kazi- 
mirski — beings created from a "pure fire 
without smoke"; see, for an attempt at a 
more precise explanation of the two pas- 
sages, Chabbi, Seigneur, igo f). 

But this difference in nature that the 
Qur'an is constrained to admit, can only 
permit the jinn to retain powers that 
enable them to outclass humans. Thus, 
although the jinn are no longer able to 
hear what heaven says about destiny, they 
are nonetheless still represented as being 
perfectly capable of rising up to heaven 
without divine assistance. The divine guard 
at the gates of heaven requires all of its 
powers, launching against them "fiery 
traces" (shihab), to throw them back to 
earth and prevent them from collecting the 
secrets of the future (q_ 37:10; 72:8-9). A 
further valiant deed could have been cred- 
ited to a jinn of Solomon's court who is 
said to be 'ifrlt (q.v.), "very skillful and 
crafty." He suggested to his master that, in 
an instant, he could bring him the throne 
of the queen of Sheba (see bilqJs); but 
the jinn does not have the time to demon- 
strate his powers (which are manifestly 
seen as effective) since his place is taken 
by a more suitable member of the king's 
retinue — one who "knew the scrip- 
ture" — who accomplished the mission 
"in the twinkling of an eye" (q_ 27:39-40). 

In fact, therefore, the approach taken by 
the Qur'an to the jinn seems to be para- 



doxical. A final quotation will demonstrate 
another way in which the Qur'an treats 
them: their persistent power can be per- 
ceived as a constant theme when the 
Qur'an itself appeals to their testimony 
(see witnessing AND testifying) in order 
to convince men who refuse to believe. 
These are the "believingjinn," called to 
aid in attesting to the pre-eminence of a 
qur'an (a verbal noun designating "the mes- 
sage faithfully transmitted" and not yet 
Qur'an as a proper noun) that they have 
heard by chance and that they call "mar- 
velous" {'ajab, Q 72:1; see marvels; 
miracle). If the jinn themselves are con- 
vinced, how could humans not be con- 
vinced? The reasoning must have been 
seen as incontestable. 

A non-Arabic origin of the wordjinn is 
not immediately traceable, even though it 
is cognate to the root j-n-n, present in most 
of the ancient Semitic languages, albeit as 
a designation of a garden or a cultivated 
place with trees (the Hebrew gan; this latter 
meaning is retained in Arabic, wherein the 
triliteral root j-n-n is used to designate a 
"cover" of vegetation). On the other hand, 
the Ethiopic gdnen has the meaning of 
"demon, evil spirit." Sometimes this Ethio- 
pic term is said to be of Syriac origin 
(Leslau, Dictionary, 198), from the root g-n-n, 
"recover, reside in, descend upon" (this is 
used of the Holy Ghost, see Payne Smith, 
Dictionary, 73; see HOLY spirit). But Syriac 
(see syriac and the qur'an) does not 
appear to provide the negative meaning 
"possessed," a meaning well-attested in 
Arabic and Ethiopic. It is probable, there- 
fore, that this latter meaning of jinn is a 
development specific to Arabic, which 
passed into Ethiopic. At any rate, the term 
jinn, with its derivatives jara, jinna, jinm (in 
the masculine, the feminine and the col- 
lective, respectively), is fully attested in the 
Arabic of the era of the Qur'an. The rep- 

resentation and perception of the perma- 
nent encounter with, and the otherness of, 
these metamorphic beings lend support to 
their imaginary existence in the minds of 
people. The Qur'an strives to turn to its 
God's advantage the fear inspired by the 
jinn and to annihilate the powers attrib- 
uted to them by the pastoral and nomadic 
societies of western Arabia. Nevertheless, 
these strange creatures have continued to 
exist in a particularly intense manner in a 
wide variety of disguises in the collective 
imaginings of Islamic societies. They en- 
countered and merged with other super- 
natural beings already long resident in the 
territories conquered by Islam. Some of 
these retained their original names such as, 
for instance, the div in Iran. Others would 
lose their identity, at least in appearance, 
and be assimilated with the figures, most 
surely negative, that can be definitively 
identified as jinn. 

Jacqueline Chabbi 

A. Caquot, Anges et demons en Israel, in Sources 
Orientates VIII. Genies anges et demons, Paris 1971 , 
115-51; J. Chabbi, Le Seigneur des tribus. Uisiam de 
Mahomet, Paris 1997, 185-232; Ch.M. Doughty, 
Travels in Arabia deserta, Cambridge 1888, New- 
York 1979; A. Dupont-Sommer and M. Philo- 
nenko, La Bible. Ecrits intertestamentaires, Paris 1987; 
PA. Eichler, Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel im Koran, 
Leipzig 1928; T. Fahd, Anges, demons et djinns 
en Islam, in Sources Orientates VIII. Genies anges et 
demons, Paris 1971, 155-213 (with important 
bibliography); A. Jaussen, Coutumes des Arab es au 
pays de Moab, Paris 1907, 1947; Jeffery, For. vocab.; 
E. Kautsch, Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des 
Alten Testaments, Tubingen igoo-2i; W. Leslau, 
Comparative dictionary of Ge'ez, Wiesbaden 1987; 
J. Payne Smith, Compendious Syriac dictionary, 
Oxford 1903; P. Riessler, Aitjudisches Schrifttum 
ausserhalb der Bibel, Augsburg 1928; W.M. Watt, 
Muhammad at Medina, London 1956; A.T. Welch, 
Allah and other supernatural beings. The emer- 
gence of the qur'anic doctine of tawhid, mJAAR 
47 (1980), 733-58; J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen 
Heidentums, Berlin 1887, 1927, 1961 3 , 148-59 (chap. 



Geister und Gespenster; Wellhausen often de- 
pends on the observations made by Doughty in 
Travels in Arabia deserta); A.J. Wensinck/L. Gardet, 
IblTs, in ei 2 , iii, 668-9. 


see poll tax; taxation 


One of the prophetic figures preceding 
Muhammad common to the Jewish, Chris- 
tian and Islamic traditions (see prophets 
and prophethood). Job (Ayyub) is men- 
tioned in only four pericopes: o 6:83-7 and 
4:163 set him in the company of the proph- 
ets while Q_ 38:41-2 and Q 21:83-4 allude to 
his distinctive vocation and charisma. 

In o_ 6:83-90, together with Abraham 
(q.v.), Isaac (q. v.), Jacob (q.v.), Noah (q.v.), 
David (q.v.), Solomon (q.v.), Joseph (q.v.), 
Moses (q.v.) and Aaron (q.v), Zechariah 
(q.v.), John (see John the baptist), Jesus 
(q.v.), Elias (see Elijah), Ishmael (q.v.), 
Elisha (q.v), Jonah (q.v.) and Lot (q.v), he 
is included among those God has guided, 
chosen and preferred to ordinary human- 
kind (see election), to whom he has given 
scripture (see book; scripture and the 
q_ur j an), authority (q.v), prophethood 
and whose example is to be followed. In 
o 4:163, Job is named among those to 
whom a revelation (see revelation and 
inspiration) has been given so that hu- 
mans will not be able to claim ignorance 
(q.v.) of God's will. The names given 
include those mentioned in the pericope 
cited above — omitting Joseph, Zechariah, 
John, Elias, Elisha and Lot, but adding 
"the tribes" (al-asbat, see children of 
Israel; tribes and clans), and two gen- 
eral categories subsuming all the other 
prophets, those mentioned to Muhammad, 
and those not mentioned to him. 
As for Job's special character, o_ 38:41-2 

presents Job calling to his lord, "Satan (see 
devil) has indeed touched me with hard- 
ship and pain (see trial)." God responds 
to his cry, "Scuff [the earth] with your 
foot. Here is [water] a place to cleanse 
yourself, [it is] cooling, it is drink." Job 
obeys. A spring appears in which he bathes 
and from which he drinks. His kin and "the 
like of them with them" are restored to 
him as an act of divine mercy (q.v.). God 
then (q 38:44) commands him to strike 
"her" (the ellipsed pronoun in fa-drib bihi 
has no explicit referent) with a sprig of 
leaves in order to keep an oath he has 
made (see oaths). The pericope ends with 
a formula of praise — "How excellent a 
servant! Constantly was he turned [to 
God]" (ni'ma l-'abdu innahu awwab) — which, 
in p_ 38:30, celebrates the virtues of Solo- 
mon, the only other prophet to be honored 
with this formula. o_ 21:83-4 likewise tells of 
Job's call to his lord, God's hearing of him, 
removal of the hurt upon him, restoration 
of what he had lost, and his praise of God 
as "most merciful of the merciful." 

Both of the pericopes that indicate Job's 
special character are allusive, but the exe- 
getical tradition (see exegesis of the 
qjur'an: classical and medieval), as 
summarized by al-Tabarl (d. 310/923; 
Tafsir, ad loc), supplies an inter-text in the 
light of which they may be understood. Job 
cried out because God had allowed Satan 
to put him to the test by destroying his live- 
stock, slaying his kin, and afflicting him 
with a painful disease (see illness and 
health). Because he remained faithful 
while put to the test, God heard his cry, 
healed him with a miraculous spring, and 
restored to him two-fold both his kin, and 
the property taken from him. The person 
to be struck with a sprig in C3 38:44 refers to 
his wife. She alone, during his illness, had 
not deserted him. But she was tempted by 
Satan, to whom she had urged Job to sacri- 

5 1 


fice a kid in order to be healed. Job swore 
an oath (see oaths) that if cured, he would 
punish her with a hundred lashes. Because 
of her faithfulness, God alleviated this 
punishment, telling Job to strike her once 
with a sprig of one hundred leaves. 

In the light of this inter-text, the status 
and role of Job in the divine economy of 
prophetic guidance is clear. These two 
pericopes present Job's distinctive cha- 
risma, that of patience in enduring unde- 
served suffering without challenging God 
to explain his wisdom (q.v.) in putting him 
to the test (see trust and patience). The 
story of Job in the Qur'an then is under- 
stood primarily as a reward narrative (see 
blessing), with an emphasis different from 
that of the story of Job in the Bible. 


Primary: Ibn Kathlr, Bidaya, i, 220-5; Kisa'l, 
Qisas; id., The tales of the prophets of al-Risa'i, trans. 
W.M. Thackston,Jr., Boston 1978, 192-204; 
TabarT, The history of al-Taban. ii. Prophets and 
patriarchs, trans. W.M. Brinner, Albany 1987, 
140-3; id., Tafsir; id., Ta'nkh, ed. de Goeje, i, 
361-5; al-Tarafl, Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad b. 
Ahmad b. Mutarraf al-Kinanl, Storie dei profeti, 
trans. R. Tottoli, Genoa 1997, 166-79; ThalabT, 
Qisas, Beirut n.d. 

Secondary: J.-L. Declais, Les premiers musulmans 
face a la tradition biblique, Trois recits sur Job, Paris 
1996 (contains a translation of Tabarl's com- 
mentary on p_ 21:83-4); J.-F. le Grain, Variations 
musulmanes sur le theme de Job, in Bulletin 
d'etudes orientates 37-8 (1985-6), 51-114; A. Jeffery, 
Ayyiib, in ei~, i, 795-6; A.H.Johns, Narrative, 
intertext and allusion in the qur'anic presenta- 
tion of Job, in Journal of qur'anic studies I (1999), 
1-25; id., Three stories of a prophet. Al-TabarT's 
treatment of Job in Surat al-Anbiya J 83-4, in 
Journal of qur'anic studies 3 (2001), 39-61; 4 (2002), 
49-60; D.B. Macdonald, Some external evidence 
on the original form of the legend of Job, in 
American journal of Semitic languages and literatures 
14 (1898), 137-64 (includes a translation of 
al-ThaTabl's section onjob); R. Tottoli, Biblical 
prophets in the Qur'an and Muslim literature, Rich- 
mond, Surrey 2002. 

John the Baptist 

The New Testament herald of Jesus (q.v.) 
who also figures in the Qur'an (see scrip- 
ture and the qur'an). John the Baptist, 
son of Zechariah (q.v.), called in Arabic 
Yahya b. Zakariyya, is mentioned by name 
five times in the Qur'an. In Q_ 3:39, John is 
described as noble, chaste and a prophet 
who will "witness the truth (q.v.) of a word 
from God," that is, Jesus (see prophets 
and prophethood; word of god; wit- 
nessing and testifying). q_ 6:85 speaks of 
John along with Zechariah, Jesus and Elias 
(see Elijah) as being of the "righteous." 
Q 19:7 announces the forthcoming birth of 
John to Zechariah (see GOOD news) with 
the remark that this name was being used 
for the first time (or that this was the first 
prophet by that name; cf. Luke 1:59-63). 
o 19:12 conveys the command to John to 
be a prophet with a book (q.v.; usually 
taken by Muslim exegetes [see exegesis of 
mean that John confirms the Torah [q.v.], 
not that he brought a new scripture). 
21:90 explains thatjohn's birth was a 
response to Zechariah's prayer, and the 
curing of his wife's barrenness. The spell- 
ing of the name Yahya. for Yohanan is 
known from pre-Islamic times and is prob- 
ably derived from Christian Arabic usage 
(see CHRISTIANS and Christianity). Mus- 
lim exegetes frequently trace the name to a 
root sense of "to quicken" or "to make 
alive" and connect this to the barrenness of 
John's mother and to his people's absence 
of faith, themes that are present in the 

Although the qur'anic details of the story 
of John are few, extended discussions con- 
cerning him have arisen throughout Mus- 
lim history. For example, the idea that John 
was "chaste" (hasur) provoked a good deal 
of debate (see abstinence; asceticism). 



In their discussions of o_ 3:39, some exe- 
getes understood this word to be intended 
in its sexual sense of being incapable of 
coitus ("he had a penis no bigger than this 
piece of straw," Tabari, Tafsir, vi, 377, a 
prophetic hadlth on the authority of Sa'ld 
b. al-Musayyab) or of abstaining from it. 
Other exegetes rejected that view, for it 
would suggest some sort of imperfection 
on the part of the prophet, and argued 
that the word means only that John was 
free from impure actions and thoughts, 
and that it does not preclude John's having 
been married (see marriage and 
divorce) and fathering children (q.v.). 

The Muslim rendering of the birth, life 
and death of John have, in general, been 
elaborated on the basis of the Christian 
accounts. John, it is said, was born six 
months prior to Jesus. He became a 
prophet, traveled to Palestine, met and 
baptized Jesus in the Jordan river and 
departed with twelve disciples to teach the 
people (see apostle; baptism). At the 
instigation of Salome, Herod had John put 
to death prior to Jesus' death and ascen- 
sion. Many of the accounts, however, have 
become confused and place John's life in 
the era of Nebuchadnezzar. This is espe- 
cially evident in stories related to John's 
death (which is not mentioned in the 
Qur'an). The Israelite king Josiah, it is 
said, killed John, the son of Zechariah, and 
Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem (q.v.) 
as a result. In these accounts, the king's 
action is motivated by his desire to marry 
his own niece, an action of which John dis- 
approved. The conspiracy of the girl's 
mother then led to the death of John (cf. 
the story of Salome, Matt 14:1-11; Mark 
6:16-29). Nebuchadnezzar invaded in order 
to solve problems that arose as a result of 
John's death (or God simply inspired him 
to do so). The source of this chronological 
confusion is likely found in the name Zech- 

ariah (a name which had already occa- 
sioned confusion within the biblical tradi- 
tion) with a conflation taking place of the 
author of the biblical book of Zechariah, 
the Zechariah of Isaiah 8, the prophet 
Zechariah of 2 Chronicles 24:22 (who was 
killed by King Joash), and Zakariyya, the 
father of John. Al-Tabarl (d. 310/923), in 
recounting these traditions, indicates that 
he is well aware that many regard these 
stories as false and based on a historical 
error, there being 461 years between the 
lives of Nebuchadnezzar and John the 



Primary: Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 4 vols., Cairo n.d.; 
Kisa'T, Qisas; Muqatil, Tafsir; Tabari, Tafsir, ed. 
Shakir; id., Ta'rikh, ed. de Goeje; al-Tarafl, Abu 
Abdallah Muhammad b. Ahmad, Stone dei profeti, 
Ital. trans. R. Tottoli, Genova 1997, 27, 297, 
300-3, 312, 346; Tha'labl, Qisas. 
Secondary: M.M. Ayoub, The Qur'an and its 
interpreters, ii. The House of Inirdn, Albany 1992, 
109-12 (on the meaning of John as "chaste"); 
E. Beck, Das chnstliche Mbnchtum im Koran, Hel- 
sinki 1946; J.C.L. Gibson, John the Baptist in 
Muslim writings, in MTV 45 (1955), 334-45; 
Horovitz, ku; Jeffery, For. vocab.; G. Parrinder, 
Jesus in the Qur'an, London 1965, chap. 5; 
H. Schiitzinger, Die arabische Legende von 
Nebukadnezar und Johannes dem Taufer, in Der 
Istam 40 (1965), 113-40; D. Sidersky, Les origines des 
legendes musuimanes dans ie Coran et dans les vies des 
prophetes, Paris 1933, 139-40; R. Tottoli, Biblical 
prophets in the Qur'an and Muslim literature, Rich- 
mond, Surrey 2002; id., Le G4sas al-anbiya' di 
Tarafi, Ph.D. thesis, Naples 1996, 487-8 (notes to 
paragraphs 426-31; includes list of Arabic 
sources parallel to al-Tabarl). 


One of the prophets mentioned in both 
the Bible and the Quran (see prophets 
and prophethood). Jonah (Yunus b. 
Mittai, Heb. Jona ben Amittai) is named 



five times in the Quran: Q_ 4:163 lists him 
together with Abraham (q. v.), Jesus (q.v.) 
and other prophets who have received rev- 
TION); as rightly-guided he is cited together 
with Zechariah (q.v.), Jesus and other 
prophets in Q_ 6:85-86; his people (qawm 
Yiinus) were, according to Q_ 10:98, the only 
ones who escaped divine punishment be- 
cause they had repented (see punishment 
stories; repentance and penance). 

As told in the Qur'an, the story of Jonah 
resembles in many details the account nar- 
rated in the biblical book of Jonah. Jonah, 
also called Dhu 1-Nun ("the man of the 
whale"), rebelled against God's mission, 
ran away in wrath, was swallowed by the 
fish, praised God, confessed his sin in the 
belly of the fish, and was thrown ashore 
(q_ 21:87-8). This and the rest of the story 
is told in Q_ 37:139-48: When he was saved, 
he found shade under a tree, and was sent 
"to a hundred thousand or more." In 
Q_ 68:48-50, Muhammad is admonished 
to wait with patience (see TRUST AND 
patience) for the command of the lord, 
and not to behave like "the man of the 
fish" (sahib al-hut), who went away without 
God's permission. 

Muslim tradition as expressed in qur'anic 
commentary (tafsir, see exegesis of the 
q_ur'an: classical and medieval) and 
the "tales of the prophets" (qisas al-anbiya') 
embellished the short account given in the 
Qur'an with many details, continuing Jew- 
ish and Christian teachings (see scripture 
and the qtjr'an; myths and legends in 
the qur'an). There are two different ver- 
sions of the story, one following in broad 
lines the biblical account, while the other 
has a somewhat different sequence of 
events. The first relates that Jonah deliv- 
ered his message in Nineveh and went 
away in wrath when people did not follow 
him and divine punishment did not arrive 

promptly. He went on board a ship, was 
swallowed by the fish, cast ashore, and 
returned to Nineveh. Upon his arrival, he 
found that in his absence the inhabitants 
had repented and punishment had been 
suspended. So he settled there. According 
to other accounts, he took to wandering 
about as an ascetic, accompanied by the 
king of Nineveh who had renounced the 
throne, ceding it to a shepherd who had 
assisted Jonah on his way back to the city. 

A full account of Jonah's biography has 
been provided by al-Kisa'l [Qisas, 296-301; 
Eng. trans, in id., Tales, 321-6). Jonah was 
born when his mother Sadaqa was far 
beyond the age of childbearing. In his 
early life he practiced asceticism (q.v.); then 
he married Anak, the daughter of Zaka- 
riyya b. Yuhanna, a rich merchant of 
Ramla. When he was called to prophet- 
hood he went to Nineveh, accompanied by 
his wife and two sons. He lost them as he 
crossed the Tigris. Jonah was rebuked 
while preaching in Nineveh and he left the 
city because of imminent punishment, 
watched the city from a nearby hill, went 
on board a ship, was swallowed by the fish 
and cast ashore, and was reunited with his 
family on his way back to Nineveh. Find- 
ing the inhabitants in a state of happiness 
he spent the rest of his life there. 

The story of Jonah posed theological 
problems for Muslims, as it had for Jews 
and Christians. Jews took offence at the 
sending of an Israelite prophet to the 
pagans, whereas Christians saw in him the 
model of evangelization to the heathens. 
This is mirrored in Muslim tradition in a 
story with an obviously Jewish or Judeo- 
Christian background (see JEWS AND 
Judaism; christians and Christianity): 
King Hezekiah, on the advice of Isaiah 
(q.v.), ordered Jonah to bring back the 
tribes in exile who had been abducted by 
the king of Nineveh. Angry at the king, 



Jonah went away, was swallowed by the 
fish, repented of his disobedience (q.v.), 
was cast ashore and then went to Nineveh 
to accomplish his mission. The inhabitants 
first rebuked him, but finally they let the 
Israelites go. 

Another problem was Jonah's anger. He 
was angry because God had postponed 
punishment for Nineveh (Jon 4:1). This is 
likewise told in Q_ 21:87: "When he de- 
parted in wrath (idh dhahaba mughadihan) ." 
Yet, this is rather vague, leaving open the 
reason for Jonah's emotional reaction (cf. 
e.g. Schwarzbaum, Biblical and extra-biblical 
legends, 112). As Muslims did not consider it 
acceptable for a prophet to show such an 
attitude toward God's orders (see obe- 
dience), they offered alternative explana- 
tions: He was enraged at King Hezekiah 
who had ordered him to go to Nineveh on 
the advice of a prophet but, evidently, 
without any divine instruction. Another 
solution was to declare the obstinacy of the 
people of Nineveh as the cause of Jonah's 
wrath (see insolence and obstinacy). A 
third explanation was his being angry at 
the urgency of his mission: The angel 
Gabriel (q.v.), who brought the orders, did 
not allow him any time for preparation, 
not even to put on his sandals. Jonah there- 
fore went away in anger, seeking refuge on 
board a ship. His refusal to transmit the 
message was a grave offence, indeed. An- 
other offence was his departure — without 
God's permission — from Nineveh be- 
cause the punishment of its inhabitants 
was not forthcoming. In Q_ 68:48, Muham- 
mad is cautioned against making such an 
emigration (q.v; hijra) without waiting for 
divine permission. Jonah repented in the 
belly of the fish, confessing that he was a 
sinner: "I was indeed wrong (inni kuntu mina 
l-ldlimin, Q_ 21:87)." 

Another question with theological impli- 
cations is the doubt (see uncertainty) 
Jonah had about God's omnipotence (see 


predestination). q_ 2i:8j,fa-ganna an Ian 
naqdira 'alayhi, may be translated "He imag- 
ined that we had no power over him." Two 
answers were found to avoid the accusation 
of unbelief (see belief and unbelief): 
One was that Jonah did not expect impris- 
onment in the narrow belly of the fish, 
qadara meaning "to measure the size," not 
only "to have power." Another solution 
was to provide the phrase with a question 
mark. On the other hand, being swallowed 
by a fish was not the proper punishment of 
one who questioned God's omnipotence. 
God, however, granted Jonah a loan (salaf) 
because he had displayed piety (q.v.) and 
devotion before he was disobedient. God, 
therefore, was not ready to leave him to the 
devil (q.v), and instead punished him by 
locking him up in the belly of the fish for 
some time. "Had it not been that he glori- 
fied God" (fa-law la annahu kdna min 
al-musabbihin) before he refused to obey 
God's orders "he would certainly have 
remained inside the fish till the day of res- 
urrection" (q.v.; o_ 37:143 f). His imprison- 
ment in the belly of the fish was not a 
punishment ('uquba), but a correction 
(ta'dib, see chastisement and punish- 

Because Jonah was impatient, he does not 
belong to the prophets of "inflexible pur- 
pose" {ulu l-'azm, Q_ 46:35) praised for their 
patience. He was saved because he prayed 
when he was in distress (see prayer). 
Therefore, he is a model for the pious 
Muslim in case of need. He is likewise a 
model for the penitent. His mother con- 
ceived him, according to al-Kisa'l (Qisas, 
296; Tales, 321), on the eve, i.e. the day 
before Ashura, the Jewish Day of Atone- 
ment. This means that Jonah was destined 
for atonement. In Jewish life, the eve of the 
Day of Atonement had taken on the char- 
acter of a festival (see fasting; festivals 
and commemorative days). It was a Fri- 
day, as al-Kisa'l adds, and it was on that 
day that the punishment of Nineveh was 



cancelled (cf. Razi, Tapir, ad Q_ 10:98). It 
can parenthetically be remarked that the 
book of Jonah is read in synagogues during 
the Day of Atonement afternoon service. 

The church fathers explained Jonah's 
sojourn of three days in the belly of the 
fish and his salvation as a prefiguration of 
the death and resurrection of Jesus. The 
length of his sojourn in the fish is, however, 
not mentioned in the Quran. Muslim tra- 
dition narrates three days, though other 
figures have also been proposed, ranging 
from one day to one month or forty days. 

Heribert Busse 

Primary (In addition to the commentaries on the 
above-mentioned passages found in works of 
tafsir from Muqatil b. Sulayman down to modern 
authors): Biqa'T, Nairn, vi, 343-45, ad o_ 37:139-48 
(contains a full Arabic translation of the biblical 
book of Jonah); Ibn KathTr, Qisas al-anbiya', ed. 
S. al-Lahham, Beirut 1988, 293-302 (this part of 
Ibn Kathlr's ''Qisas" is taken from his Biddya, i, 
231-7); Kisa'l, Qisas, 296-301; id., The tales of the 
prophets of al-R'isa'i, trans. W.M. Thackston, Jr., 
Boston 1978, 321-6; Mirkhond (Mir Khwand), 
The Rauzat-us-safa. Or, Garden of purity, 2 pts. in 
5 vols., trans. E. Rehatsek, London 1891-4, pt. 
1 vol. ii, 112-20; RazT, Tafsir; TabarT, The history of 
al-'Tabari. iv. The ancient kingdoms, trans. M. Perl- 
mann, Albany 1987, 160-6; id., Tankh, ed. de 
Goeje, i, 782-9; Talmud, Megillah 31a; al-Tarafi, 
Abu ( Abdallah Muhammad b. Ahmad, Stone dei 
profeti, trans. R. Tottoli, Genoa 1997, 125-35; 
Tha'labl, Qisas, 366-70. 

Secondary: C. Castillo Castillo, Jonas en la 
leyenda musulmana. Estudio comparado, in 
Qcintara 4 (1983), 89-roo; H. Schwarzbaum, 
Biblical and extra-biblical legends in Islamic folk- 
literature, Walldorf-Hessen 1982; Speyer, Erzah- 
lungen, 407-10. 


The son of Jacob (q.v.; Ya'qub), whose 
story is told in Surat Yusuf ("Joseph"), the 
twelfth sura of the Quran. This sura is de- 
voted to the story of Joseph (Yusuf) and, as 
such, it is the Qur'an 's longest sustained 
narrative of one character's life. The sura's 

in verses (ayat) relate events injoseph's life 
ranging from his youthful conversations 
with his father Jacob and his brothers (see 
benjamin; brother and brotherhood), 
conversations that lead to Joseph's exile 
and imprisonment, to the resolution of the 
family's conflicts through divine guidance 
and inspiration (see revelation and 
inspiration). cj 12:3 announces that "the 
best of stories" (ahsan al-qasas), is to be 
related (see narratives). Qur'an com- 
mentaries differ as to whether this is a 
direct reference to the story at hand or a 
more general statement on the nature of 
qur'anic narrative. Those commentators 
who see Joseph's as the best of all stories 
give a multiplicity of reasons for its super- 
iority (see myths and legends in the 
qur'an). "It is the most beautiful because 
of the lessons concealed in it, on account 
of Joseph's generosity, and its wealth of 
matter — in which prophets (see prophets 
and prophethood), angels (see angel), 
devils (see devil), jinn (q.v.), men, animals, 
birds (see cosmology; animal life), rul- 
ers (see kings and rulers; community 
and society in THE qur'an), and sub- 
jects play a part" (Tha'labl, Qisas, 
ad loc). 

Throughout the sura, there are interjec- 
tions that exhort the believers to see the 
hand of God in human affairs and to rec- 
ognize the power of true prophecy (q_ 12:7, 
56-7). Joseph can thus be seen as exempli- 
fying the basic paradigm of the Qur'an: 
he is a prophet (nabi) who is derided and 
exiled, but is eventually vindicated and 
rises to prominence. As such, he serves as 
a model for the life of Muhammad and 
many of the qur'anic commentaries (tajasir, 
see exegesis of the qur'an: classical 
and medieval) see this as a central theme 
and function of the sura (see also opposi- 
tion to muhammad). This interpretation 
is strengthened by the "occasions of revela- 
tion" (q.v.; asbdb al-nuzitl) tradition, which 
places the circumstance of Surat Yusuf 's 



revelation at the point where Muhammad 
is challenged by skeptics who doubt his 
knowledge of the narratives of the Chil- 
dren of Israel (q.v.; banu Isrd'il, Baydawi, 
Anwar). The sura is one response to this 
challenge, and is thus greatly detailed 
and includes information not known from 
earlier tellings of the stories of Jacob's 

In his commentary on the opening of the 
sura, "These are the signs of the manifest 
book" (o_ 12:1), al-BaydawI offers an alter- 
native reading to the simple meaning of 
the text. He explains it thus: "This is the 
sura which makes plain to the Jews that 
which they asked... it is recorded that their 
learned men said to the chiefs of the poly- 
theists, 'Ask Muhammad why Jacob's fam- 
ily moved from Syria (q.v.) to Egypt (q.v), 
and about the story of Joseph,' whereupon 
this sura was revealed." On one occasion 
Muhammad is asked for even greater de- 
tail, whereupon he reveals the names of 
the stars (see planets and stars) that 
Joseph saw in his dream (cf. Zamakhsharl, 
Kashshaf; see jews and Judaism). 

Dreams (see dreams and sleep) are cen- 
tral to this narrative. Joseph's dream of 
ascension to power, an ambition so bit- 
terly resented by his brothers, is featured 
in Q_ 12:4-7. The king of Egypt's (see 
pharaoh) dreams trouble him, they are "a 
jumble of dreams" (adghathu ahlamin), and 
only Joseph can offer the true interpreta- 
tion (p_ 12:43-9). Here one can see the 
compression of narrative at work in the 
sura. While in the Joseph narratives of 
the Hebrew Bible, both dream epi- 
sodes — those of Joseph and those of the 
Pharaoh — have two dreams each, the 
Quran tells of only one dream for each 
figure. The essence of their messages is 
conveyed through the manner in which 
these dreams are written and their ex- 
pressed interpretations (see scripture 

The two dream episodes are separated 
by that section of the narrative that has 
received the most exegetical and literary 
attention (both in Islamic and Western 
culture): the episode in which his master's 
wife attempts to seduce Joseph (o_ 12:23-31). 
The reasons for Joseph's rejection of the 
unnamed older woman are not directly 
stated. Rather, it is related that he was led 
away from temptation when he saw the 
"proof of his lord" (burhan rabbihi, Q_ 12:24), 
variously interpreted as an image of the 
master of the house or as an image of his 
father Jacob. Other interpretations under- 
stand the interruption as a "call" of divine 
origin telling Joseph not to sin or as the 
actual appearance on the wall of qur'anic 
verses warning against sin (see sin, major 

Joseph's adventure with his master's wife 
and his subsequent encounter with "the 
women of the city" lead him to prison, a 
prison from which he is freed after he in- 
terprets the king's dream. The Qur'an here 
emphasizes Joseph's innocence and sets the 
stage for the second half of the narrative 
to unfold. This latter half of Surat Yusuf is 
focused on the dramatic encounters be- 
tween Joseph and his family. Shuttling be- 
tween their father Jacob and their brother 
Joseph, the brothers (who remain un- 
named), seek a resolution of the family 
conflict. Before the brothers and their 
father enter Egypt together (p_ 12:100) the 
conflict is resolved. Joseph assures his 
brothers that they will not be blamed and 
Jacob is told that his children are forgiven. 
As the narrative closes, the sura exhorts the 
reader/listener to see the actions of God 
at work in this story, actions which are 
made manifest only through God's mes- 
sengers (see messenger). 

Joseph's name appears in two suras 
other than Surat Yusuf. In a list of earlier 
prophetic figures, Joseph's name appears 



between those of Job (Ayyub) and Moses 
(Mflsa; Q_ 6:84). On this same theme of 
Joseph as one of the earlier messen- 
gers — and thus a predecessor of, and 
model for, Muhammad — see Q_ 40:34, 
where it is stated that "Joseph brought 
you the clear signs (q.v.) before, yet you 
continued in doubt (q.v.) concerning what 
he brought you until, when he perished, 
you said 'God will never send forth a mes- 
senger after him'." 

Neither Joseph's death nor burial is men- 
tioned in the Quran, but they do figure in 
Islamic legends. Al-Tabarl (d. 310/923) 
relates a tradition that Joseph lived to the 
age of 120. He also cites the biblical tradi- 
tion that tells of Joseph's death at an ear- 
lier age, "In the Torah (q.v.) it is said that 
he lived one hundred and ten years, and 
that Ephraim and Manasseh were born to 
him." The use of Joseph's coffin to ensure 
Egypt's fertility also appears in Islamic 
folklore. In his commentary on Surat 
Yiisuf, al-BaydawT (d. ca. 685/1286) says, 
"... the Egyptians disputed about Joseph's 
burial place until they were on the verge of 
fighting, so they decided to place him in a 
marble sarcophagus and bury him in the 
Nile in such a way that the water would 
pass over him and thereafter reach all of 
Egypt. Then the Egyptians would all be on 
an equal footing in regard to him." From 
Egypt, Joseph's bones are carried to Syria 
(al-Sham). There are contending Islamic 
traditions as to Joseph's final burial place. 
One tradition places it in the Haram al- 
Khalll in Hebron (cf. Yaqut, Buldan, ii, 
498-9). Another situates it in the village of 
Balata (Yaqut, Buldan, i, 710; al-HarawI, 
Guide, 61), near Nablus. As this brief over- 
view demonstrates, the commentarial and 
folkloric traditions concerning Surat Yusuf 
are particularly rich. While earlier Western 
scholarship focused on comparisons be- 
tween this sura and the Hebrew Bible's 
Joseph narratives, the more recent scholar- 

ship focuses on the literary qualities of the 
sura and on the relevance of this narrative 
to the life of Muhammad. 

S. Goldman 

Primary: Baydawl, Anwar; al-HarawI al-Mawsill, 
TaqI 1-Dln, Guide des lieux de pelerinage, trans. 

J. Sourdel-Thomine, Damascus 1957, 61; Kisal, 
Qisas; trans. W.M. Thackston, The tales of the 

prophets of al-Kisa'i, Boston 1978, 178-80; Tabarl, 
Tafsir; Tha'labl, Qisas; Yaqut, Buldan, ed. 
Wiistenfeld; Zamakhsharl, Kashshaf. 
Secondary: A.F.L. Beeston, Baidawi's commentary 
on surah 12 of the Quran, Oxford 1963; S. Gold- 
man, The wiles of women, the wiles of men. Joseph 
and Potiphar's wife in ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and 
Islamic folklore, New York 1995; A.H.Johns, "She 
desired him and he desired her" (Qj-ir'an 12:24). 
( Abd al-Ra'iif 's treatment of an episode of the 

Joseph story in Tarjumdn al-MustaJid, in Archipel 57 
(1999), 109-34; M- Mir, The qur'anic story of 

Joseph. Plot, themes and characters, in M\v 76 
(1986), 1-15; A.-L. de Premare, Joseph ct Muham- 
mad, he chapitre 12 du Coran, Aix-en-Provence 
1989; Speyer, Erzdhlungen, 187-224; R. Tottoli, 
I profeti biblici nella tradizione islamica, Brescia 
iggg, 52-7; M.R. Waldman, New approaches 
to "biblical" materials in the Qiir'an, in W.M. 
Brinner and S.D. Ricks (eds.), Papers presented at 
the Institute for Islamic-Judaic Studies. Center for 

Judaic Studies, University of Denver, Atlanta 1986 
[Studies in Islamic and Judaic traditions no [1986]), 
47-63; B.M. Wheeler, Prophets in the Qilr'an, 
London 2002, 127-45 (f° r trie translation of 
some exegetical texts). 


Voyage, usually of some length, from one 
place to another. Terms to be translated as 
"journey, trip, travel," occur throughout 
the Qur'an. Perhaps the most obvious, and 
most frequent, are derivatives of s-f-r, s-y-r, 
and d-r-b (ft). Of this set, eight (q_ 2:184, 
185, 283; 4:43; 5:6 [s-f-r]; 4:101; 5:106; 73:20 
[d-r-b]) concern legal prescriptions brought 
into play by the act of travel (see law and 
the q_ur'an). For example, o_ 2:184-5, 
"[fast; see fasting] for a given number of 



days, but if any among you is ill (see 
illness and health) or on a journey ('aid 
safarin), [fast] on an equal number of other 
days." (Commentary on this passage ap- 
pears limited; see Ayoub, Qur'an, 193-5.) 
2:283 addresses pledges of trust (see 
oaths; contracts and alliances); 
o 5:106 finding sound witnesses (in execut- 
ing bequests; see inheritance; witness- 
ing and testifying); and Q_ 4:43 and 5:6 
allowing travelers alternate forms of ritual 
cleansing (see cleanliness and ablution) 
prior to prayer (q.v.). Q 4:101, "when you 
travel through the world (wa-idhd darabtum 
ji l-ard), you occur no sin (see SIN, major 
and minor) if you shorten the prayer," 
speaks to risks for the traveler in hostile ter- 
ritory. The last of the set, Q_ 73:20, recog- 
nizes the traveler's need to curtail reading 
of the Qur'an (see recitation of the 
q_ur'an; ritual and the qur'an) when 
circumstances require it. 

A second category reflects, more gener- 
ally, movement in the name of God or, 
more properly, "upon the path of God" (Ji 
sabili lldhi, cf. Q_ 2:190, 218, 262, 273; 5:54; 
22:9; 24:22; see path or way). q_ 9:41, on 
the arduous nature of service to God, is 
an example; so, too, is Q_ 4:94, in which 
the believer is told to display vigilance and 
humility when venturing into the world. 
Q_ 9:111 refers to those who "wander" in 
such manner; the term sd'ih, here used in 
the plural, is understood by Arabic lexi- 
cographers to refer to ascetics (see 
asceticism), specifically those devoted to 
fasting (see Lisdn al-'Arab). A final category 
appears to denote simply instances of 
movement from place to place: i.e. Q_ 3:156 
(d-r-bj, which refers to the travel of unbe- 
lievers (see belief and unbelief). Nearly 
all of the derivatives of s-y-r fall into this 
category, such as Q_ 12:109, "do they not 
travel through the world?" Two references 
to Moses (q.v), o 18:62 and Q_ 28:29, speak 
of his travel; and Q_ 34:18 (al-sayr) and 

Q_ 34:19 (asjarind), in reference to the people 
of Saba' (see sheba), treat distances or 
stages of journey. 

A further term, rihla, in Q_ 106:2, proved 
unsettling to the exegetes. It is one of four 
uses of derivatives of r-h-l; the remaining 
three, Q_ 12:62, 70, 75, treat the saddle- 
bags (rahl, pi. rihdl) of Joseph's (q.v.) broth- 
ers (see BROTHER and brotherhood). 
The term rihla occurs in Q_ 106 (Surat 
Quraysh — known also as Surat Ilaf ) 
ostensibly in reference to the pair of jour- 
neys taken by the Quraysh (q.v.) at set 
points of the year, one in the cold, the sec- 
ond in the hot season (see seasons). Al- 
Tabarl (d. 310/923; Tafsir, ad loc) indicates 
that many of the early commentators (see 
medieval) understood that the Quraysh, 
for reasons of commerce ("they were mer- 
chants"; see selling and buying; cara- 
van), underwent a winter rihla to Yemen 
(q.v.; usually, the view is, because of the 
favorable weather) and a summer rihla to 
Syria (q.v.). While his apparent preference 
lies with this reading, al-Tabarl cites an 
alternate view, that both journeys were 
confined to the Hijaz (see geography; 
Later commentators would occasionally 
relate these journeys to the performance of 
the lesser and greater pilgrimages ('umra 
and hajj, respectively; see pilgrimage). In 
sum, and particularly in later commenta- 
ries, the exegetes are uncertain as to the 
meaning of the term other than as a refer- 
ence to journeys of some kind undertaken 
by the Quraysh. Further questions sur- 
rounding rihla are treated by, among 
others, P. Crone (Meccan trade, 204-14) and 
F.E. Peters (Muhammad, 88-92). The first 
such problem concerns the relationship of 
Surat Quraysh to Surat al-Fil ("The Ele- 
phant"; c) 106 and Q_ 105 respectively). 
Some early exegetes treat the two as a sin- 
gle sura; al-Tabarl (Tafsir, xxx, 197-8), 



however, weighs in against this view (see 
I. Shahid, Two suras, for a modern coun- 
terview). Closely related problems arise in 
reference to Tldf, about which the commen- 
taries are in frequent disagreement — both 
with regard to the reading (see readings 
script) and the interpretation. If the fre- 
quently expressed view is correct, that it 
refers to arrangements permitted by God 
and executed by the Quraysh in order to 
create the proper conditions for safe pas- 
sage, or, simply, the order created by God 
that allowed the Quraysh to survive, even 
thrive (see blessing; grace; mercy), one 
is still left with the question regarding the 
nature of these journeys. 

Rihla takes on, beginning with the early 
Islamic tradition, the notion of travel as an 
act of piety (q.v.) and scholarship (see 
known hadlth (see hadith and the 
q_ur'an), the Prophet urges believers to 
seek "knowledge, wisdom" film) even as far 
as China, if need be. Drawing, if indi- 
rectly, on this impulse, and joining it fre- 
quently to participation in the pilgrimage 
fhajj), Muslim authors crafted a genre of 
travel literature (see trips and voyages). 
Premier examples of the genre are the 
works of Ibn Jubayr (d. 614/1217) and Ibn 
Battiita (d. 770/1377). I.R. Netton (Rihla) 
provides a useful initial bibliography. 

Matthew S. Gordon 

Primary: DarimT, Sunan, Cairo 2000, i, 133-6; 
TabarT, TafsTr, Beirut 1972; TabarsI, Majma', 
Sidon 1365/1937, ix, 544-5. 
Secondary: M.M. Ayoub, 'The Qur'an and its 
interpreters, vol. i, Albany 1984; P. Crone, Meccan 
trade and the rise of Islam, Princeton 1987; I.R. 
Netton, Rihla, in El", viii, 528; F.E. Peters, 
Muhammad and the origins of Islam, Albany 1994; 
I. Shahid, Two qur'anic suras. Al-Fil and Qurays, 
in W. al-Qadl (ed.), Stadia arabica et islamica, 
Beirut 1981, 429-36. 

Joy and Misery 

The state of happiness and that of 
wretchedness, respectively. References to 
joy and misery are frequent in the Qur'an, 
are expressed either directly or by implica- 
tion, and pertain both to this world and the 
next (see eschatology). Pleasures of this 
world are neither condemned nor forbid- 
den (q.v.; see also asceticism; abstinence; 
wealth; poverty and the poor; law- 
ful and unlawful), but believers are to 
be mindful about the source of these pleas- 
ures (see gratitude and ingratitude). 
Current wretchedness is not a sure sign of 
divine favor or disfavor (see blessing; 
grace; curse; reward and punishment; 
trial): the true believer, however, is to 
assist those who are less fortunate (see 
ethics and the qtjr'an; community and 
society in the qur'an). While the joys 
and miseries of the present life are not 
absent from the qur'anic discourse, it is the 
states of joy and misery experienced in the 
next life upon which the Qur'an places its 
strongest emphasis (see reward and 

Among the most recurrent themes is the 
relative worthlessness of the joys of this 
world in comparison with those of the 
hereafter, as in Q_ 57:20, "The present life is 
but the joy of delusion." The word ren- 
dered here as "joy" is matd', which also 
occurs in the following passages: "Surely, 
this present life is but a passing enjoyment 
fmatd) and the hereafter is the abode [in 
which] to settle" (p_ 40:39); "And those 
things you have been given are only a pro- 
vision fmatd') of this life and its adornment, 
and whatever is with God is better and 
more lasting" (q_ 28:60; also 13:26 and 
42:36); and "The enjoyment fmatd') of this 
world is but little, and the hereafter is bet- 
ter for the one who is pious" (g_ 4:77; cf 
9:38). Equally significant is the contrast 
between the pleasures, delights, and enjoy- 



merits of this world and the punishment to 
be visited upon those who do not submit to 
God (see reward and punishment; hell 
and hellfire; fire). The forgers of lies 
against God are promised "a little enjoy- 
ment (mata), and for them is a painful 
chastisement" (o_ 16:117; see chastisement 
and punishment) or "A brief enjoyment. 
Then their abode is hell" (p_ 3:197). Of like 
import are passages that emphasize 
accountability to God at the end of life. 
People who become rebellious after God 
has rescued them from the terrors of the 
sea are told, "O people, your rebellion 
(q.v.) is against yourselves — only a mata ' of 
this world's life. Then to us is your return" 
(o 10:23). 

For the most part, words from the root 
m-t-'have reference to material things 
rather than to the spiritual joys of the 
hereafter: they designate things that are 
useful, of benefit, that bring satisfaction, 
that meet needs or that inspire delight and 
pleasure. Such is the meaning of those 
verses that speak of a provision (mata') for 
this world, as in Q_ 3:14: "Fair seeming to 
people is made the love of desires, of 
women, of sons (see children), of 
hoarded treasures of gold (q.v.) and silver 
and branded horses and cattle and tilth 
(see animal life; agriculture and 
vegetation). This is the provision (mata') 
of the life of this world." More basically, 
mata' indicates the necessities of life, those 
things which are required to sustain exist- 
ence and which afford pleasure. There is 
mention of a " 'goodly provision' for you 
for a certain time" (p_ 11:3), also of an 
"abode and provision for you for a time" 
(q_ 7:24) and of "an enjoyment (mata') for 
you and your cattle" (q_ 79:33; 80:32). Fire- 
wood is both a reminder of God as pro- 
vider of all things and a boon (mata) to 
wayfarers in the desert (q.v; q 56:73) and 
the produce of the sea is characterized as a 
"provision for you and for the travelers" 

(q_ 5:96; see hunting and fishing). Mus- 
lims are also warned of the desire of the 
unbelievers (see belief and unbelief) that 
they be heedless of their weapons and their 
possessions (£4:102; see instruments; 
fighting; expeditions and battles). 
The material meaning is clear in such 
passages as that in which Muslims are 
commanded: "When you ask them [the 
Prophet's wives; see WIVES OF THE 
prophet] for something (mata) ask them 
from behind a veil" (q.v.; q 33:53)- 

The concept of mata' as material goods or 
possessions also appears in the story of 
Joseph (q.v). Joseph's brothers fabricate an 
explanation for the disappearance of their 
young sibling by telling their father that 
they had left Joseph behind to mind their 
baggage (mata) while they ran races and 
that he had been eaten by a wolf (q 12:17). 
Later, when Joseph's brothers return to 
their father from their trip to buy corn in 
Egypt and open their things (amta), they 
find that their money has been returned to 
them (q 12:65). In the same story, again, 
Joseph asserts (in reference to the king's 
missing drinking cup; see cups and 
vessels) that he will hold responsible only 
him in whose possession the goods (mata) 
are found (q 12:79). 

The essentially material nature of mata' is 
underlined also by the commands to make 
honorable provision for divorced women 
(q_ 2:241; see marriage and divorce). 
The affluent man should do so according 
to his means and the person in more strait- 
ened circumstances according to his, in 
agreement with established custom 
(q_ 2:236). Those who die should also leave 
a bequest to surviving wives that will offer 
provision for a period of one year without 
their being turned out (q 2:240; see 

Another set of meanings relating to joy is 
expressed in forms of the root f-r-h which 
means "to be happy, delighted, cheerful," 



etc. The noun farha, signifying "joy," does 
not appear as such in the Qur'an, but there 
are frequent occurrences of other words 
from this root that point to the experience 
of joy. One such is the verb "to rejoice." 
Uses of this verb may be divided into those 
which indicate positive causes for rejoicing 
and those which refer to negative causes. 
One affirmative reason to rejoice is the 
mercy (q.v.) of God: "and when we cause 
men to taste mercy they rejoice in it" 
(O. 3 0: 36; 42:48); also "Say: let them rejoice 
in the grace and mercy of God. It is better 
than what they hoard" (q 10:58). A major 
source of joy is the revelation (see revela- 
tion and inspiration): "Rejoice in what 
was sent down to you" (o_ 13:36) and "on 
that day the faithful will rejoice in God's 
help" (q_ 30:4, 5). God, indeed, controls all 
things for both good and ill "so that you do 
not grieve for what has escaped you nor 
rejoice in what he has given you" (q_ 57:23; 
see freedom and predestination). God 
both amplifies and diminishes the provi- 
sion for men, and "they rejoice in this pres- 
ent life" (o_ 13:26). Addressing those who 
refused to participate with the Muslims in 
battle, the Qur'an sa y S t ] la t those lost are 
not killed or dead, but are alive and have 
sustenance "rejoicing in the grace God has 
bestowed on them" (q_ 3:170). Even mun- 
dane physical events are reason to rejoice 
as sailors do when they encounter a fair 
wind (q_ 10:22; see AIR AND wind). 

Rejoicing can occur, however, for reasons 
that are not in themselves good. When this 
happens, the joy expressed is often equiva- 
lent to boasting (see boast), pride (q.v.), 
haughtiness, arrogance (q.v.) or ingratitude 
instance, at the time of the emigration 
(q.v.; hijra) to Medina (q.v.), "those who 
were left behind rejoiced in tarrying" 
(o_ 9:81). The present sent by the Queen of 
Sheba (see bilqis) to King Solomon (q.v.) 
earned him a rebuke, as he exulted in the 

gift instead of recognizing that what God 
had given was better (o_ 27:36). Pride and 
arrogance were also involved in the case of 
Qarun, biblical Korah (q.v.), the wealthy 
Jew whose people warned him: "Do not 
boast (la tafrah), God does not love boasters 
(farifyin)" (q 28:76). The fate of previous 
peoples shows their haughtiness and its 
consequences; when messengers came to 
them with clear arguments "they exulted in 
the knowledge they already had" (q 40:83; 
see proof; knowledge and learning) 
and what they had formerly mocked came 
to pass (see mockery). When the unbeliev- 
ers rejected what had been said to them 
but, nonetheless, experienced much good, 
"they rejoiced in what had been given 
them" (q 6:44), but God seized them sud- 
denly. When the fortunes of a man change 
for the good after his having suffered, he 
may become ungrateful: "Certainly, he is 
exultant, boastful" (q ii:io). As for the 
unbelievers, "If something good happens 
to you, it grieves them, and if something 
bad happens to you, they take joy in it" 
(q_ 3:120; see good and evil). In a nearly 
identical verse the unbelievers also take 
credit for the hardship that may afflict the 
believers, "and they turn away rejoicing" 
(°, 9-5 )- Pride in what they have is likewise 
characteristic of the various groups into 
which the Muslim community is divided, 
"each party rejoicing in what it has" 
(q_ 23:53; 30:32; see parties and fac- 
tions). Finally, it is made clear that rejoic- 
ing or exulting in the wrong things has seri- 
ous consequences: "And do not think that 
those who exult in what they have done... 
are free from punishment" (q 3:188). They 
will, indeed, endure the torments of hell 
because they "exulted in the land unjustly" 

(a 40:75)- 

Quite similar in usage and meaning are 
some words from the root b-sh-r, meaning 
"to be joyous or to rejoice in good tidings." 
The Prophet is described in the Qur'an as 



a bashir or bearer of good news (q.v.). 
o 3:169 and 170 show Xhzlfarah and b-sh-r 
are synonymous terms in their meaning of 
rejoicing. Those who were killed in battle 
are joyous (farihin) in what God has given 
them of his grace and rejoice (yastabshi- 
runa) for those who have not yet joined 
them that they have neither fear (q.v.) nor 
grief. They rejoice (yastabshimna) in God's 
favor and his grace (o_ 3:171). Physical 
events are also a source of joy as, for 
example, when the rain falls (o 30:48; 
see water; nature as signs). Of more 
spiritual import is revelation, which, as it 
comes, strengthens the faith (q.v.) of the 
believers, "and they are joyful" (yastab- 
shimna, Q_ 9:124). There is none more faith- 
ful to a promise than God (see oaths; 
trusts and contracts); the believers are 
commanded "rejoice, therefore, in the bar- 
gain you have made" (q_ 9:111). In the story 
of Lot (q.v.) there is an example of rejoic- 
ing in evil (q_ 15:67) when the townspeople 
come to him demanding the messengers 
whom Lot has accepted as his guests. On 
the last and terrible day of judgment (see 
last judgment) there will be some faces 
that are bright, "laughing, joyous" 
(o 80:39), while others will be covered with 
dust in gloom and darkness (q.v.). The 
unbelievers seek intercession (q.v.) with 
other than God though it is useless for 
them to do so. "When God alone is men- 
tioned, the hearts (see heart) of those 
who believe not in the hereafter shrink 
(ashma'azzat), and when those besides 
him are mentioned, lo! they are joyful" 

(a 39 : 45)- 

Joy is also indicated by the word na'im 
from the root, n- '-m, which means "to be 
happy, to be glad, to delight, to take pleas- 
ure in something, or to enjoy something." 
Na'im may be translated as "bliss," for it 
points to a particularly intense sense of joy, 
in fact, to the very pinnacle of delight and 

pleasurable feeling that humans may expe- 
rience. In all seventeen of its occurrences 
in the Qur'an, na'im is associated either 
with paradise (q.v.) or with the fate of the 
righteous on the day of judgment, as in 
Q_ 102:8: "On that day you will certainly be 
questioned about true bliss." There shall 
be judgment for the evildoers (see EVIL 
deeds) and rewards for the righteous of 
whom "you know in their faces the radi- 
ance of bliss" (q_ 83:24); "Surely, the righ- 
teous are in bliss" (q_ 82:13; 83:22). The 
concept figures most often in descriptions 
of paradise which refer to gardens of bliss 
or gardens of delight (e.g. Q_ 10:9; 22:56; see 
garden) where the righteous may dwell 
eternally (see eternity). "And when you 
look there, you see bliss and a great king- 
dom" (o 76:20). There are closely related 
words from the same root that also point to 
things which give joy. JVi'ma, meaning 
"blessing (q.v), favor, or grace (q.v.)" and 
used in connection with God's beneficence 
to man, is found fifty times in the Qur'an. 
There are also eighteen occurrences of 
verbs from the same root, all conveying the 
idea of blessing. 

Another set of words that refers to joy 
comes from the root s-r-r, "to make happy, 
to gladden," yielding also the nouns happi- 
ness and gladness. For example, when 
Moses (q.v.) commanded his people to sac- 
rifice a cow, he replied to their request for a 
description of it, saying that it was "a 
golden cow, bright in color, gladdening the 
beholders" (q_ 2:69; see calf of gold). 
More significant is the use of the passive 
participle (masruran) in connection with the 
judgment day. One who is given his book 
behind his back, although "he used to live 
among his people joyfully" will taste perdi- 
tion and enter into burning fire (q_ 84:10-3). 
In contrast, he who is judged righteous 
"will return to his people joyfully" (o 84:9). 
God "will ward off the evil of that day 
from them and give them radiance and 



gladness" (p_ 76:11). Again the theme of 
judgment day is the context for the use of 
another term signifying joy, namely jakih 
(of the rootf-k-h). The word is evidenced 
twice in predictions of the coming judg- 
ment, "The inhabitants of paradise today 
are busy in their rejoicing" (o 36:55) and 
"The dutiful will surely be in gardens and 
in bliss, rejoicing because of what their 
lord has given them" (o_ 52:17, 18). In 
o_ 11:105 another term for happiness, sa'Td, 
is used in an eschatological context (cf. also 
Q_ 11:108): the state of contentment of those 
assigned a heavenly reward is explicitly 
contrasted with the misery of those who 
are consigned to the fire of hell (o_ 11:106). 
The Qur'an speaks with great frequency 
of the reward, recompense or wage pre- 
pared for those who believe and are right- 
eous (see justice AND injustice). The ref- 
erences are far too numerous to be detailed 
here, but they may be explored by refer- 
ence to terms from such roots as '-dh-b, 
'-g-b, th-w-b,j-z-y, and kh-r-j. Reward and 
punishment are, indeed, among the very 
central themes of the qur'anic message. As 
one of its consequences reward surely 
brings joy to those who receive it, since 
that reward is nothing less than an eternity 
in paradise, the ultimate joy to which the 
qur'anic revelation urges humankind to 

As with the understanding of joy, the con- 
cept of misery also has a double aspect, 
one related to worldly life and the other to 
the hereafter. In mundane terms, misery is 
a consequence of poverty and deprivation 
OPPRESSED ON earth, the). The pursuit of 
righteousness requires choosing the uphill 
road, one element of which is to feed "the 
poor man (miskin) lying in the dust" 
(o_ 90:16). In addition to the eschatological 
sense that is found in C3 11:105-6 (men- 
tioned above), derivatives of sh-q-y carry 

the sense of unprosperous (o_ 20:2, 123; 
19:48 and others), of adversity (o_ 23:106), 
and of wretchedness (o_ 87:11). The Qur'an 
exhibits a humanitarian concern for the 
deprived, especially in the chapters gener- 
ally held to belong to the first parts of the 
revelation. Among the actions that define a 
pious Muslim is the giving of wealth (q.v.) 
to "the near of kin (see kinship), and the 
orphans (q.v.) and the needy and the way- 
farer" (q_ 2:177; see hospitality and 
courtesy; journey). In short, it takes 
notice of the misery of poverty and dis- 
tress. Endurance in times of distress and 
affliction are another mark of the pious 
believer. In accord with its broad insistence 
upon God's sovereignty the Qur'an under- 
lines that it is he who delivered Noah (q.v.) 
and his people from their great distress 
and, indeed, is the deliverer from every dis- 
tress (o_ 6:64; 21:76; 37:76, 115). There is 
also mention of God's seizing people with 
misery and hardship (o_ 2:214; 6:42; 7:94; 
see trial; punishment stories). All of 
these references have to do with poverty 
and the pain that accompanies it. 

Undoubtedly, however, the greatest mis- 
ery is otherworldly, that of hell, the place 
for which all are destined who do not heed 
the message of God. Some of the most 
graphic passages of the Qur'an are 
devoted to descriptions of the miseries to 
be endured in hell. Its inhabitants will be 
roasted (o_ 38:56), and will be made to suf- 
fer a blazing fire in which they must dwell 
forever. They will be paraded about Jahan- 
11am (hell) hobbling on their knees (o_ 19:68). 
As for the unbeliever, "Hell is before him, 
and he is given oozing pus to drink (see 
food and drink); he drinks it little by little 
and is not able to swallow it; and death 
comes to him from every side; yet he does 
not die" (q 14:16-7). "And whenever they try 
to escape from it, from anguish, they are 
turned back" (q_ 22:22). The torments of 
hell are a recompense, wage or reward for 



the evil of the evildoers and for the denials 
of those who disbelieved. By their deeds 
they have earned a mighty chastisement, a 
painful punishment. The promise of eter- 
nal misery to come is one of the most per- 
sistent and compelling of all qur'anic 

Charles J. Adams 

Primary: DamaghanI, Wujuh, ii, 221-2 (for mata'); 
ii, 112-3 {forfarh); Yahya b. Sallam, al-Tasanf. Taf- 
sir al-Qur'an minima shtabahat asma'uhu wa-tasarrafat 
nmdnihi, ed. Hind ShiblT, Tunis 1979, 243-4 (f° r 

Secondary: W. Graham, 'The winds to herald his 
mercy' and other 'signs for those of certain 
faith.' Nature as token of God's sovereignty and 
grace in the Qur'an, in S. Lee, W. Proudfoot and 
A. Blackwell (eds.), Faithful imagining. Essays in 
honor of Richard R. Nicbuhr, Atlanta 1995, 19-38; 
Hanna E. Kassis, A concordance of the Quran, 
Berkeley 1983. 


Opinion or decision; pronouncement of 
such. Judgment is an integral part of the 
whole qur'anic ethos and is intrinsically 
linked to creation (q.v.) itself, which is not 
just a random act but teleological and 
divinely ordained (see cosmology; fate; 
who is the sole source of creation and sus- 
tenance (q.v.; see also blessing; food and 
drink), is also the lord (q.v.) of the day of 
judgment (see last judgment). Conse- 
quently, the concept of God's final "judg- 
ment," which eventually became one of 
the tenets of faith (q.v.; aqa'id, see also 
greeds), is found throughout the Qur'an, 
with subsequent expansion and refinement 
by the exegetical tradition (see exegesis of 
the qjur'an: classical and medieval). 
But judgment is not the prerogative of 
God alone. The Qur'an, which acknowl- 
edges that in the course of their daily lives, 

humans, too, pass judgment, sets forth gen- 
eral (and, in certain cases, specific) guide- 
lines by which humans should judge (see 

The Qur'an contains no unique term for 
judgment, human or divine. Rather, a 
range of vocabulary is employed to convey 
the concept: hukm, qada\ din, hisdb, ray, 
rashad/rushd and others. Among these, 
hukm — a verbal noun of the verb hakama 
(Trom the triliteral root h-k-m) meaning 
"to judge, give verdict or provide deci- 
sion" — and its cognates occurs most com- 
prehensively. One derivative, hakam (pi. 
hukkam), was historically associated with 
pre-Islamic judges or, rather, arbitrators 
(see pre-islamic Arabia and the 
qur'an), a meaning apparent in the 
Qur'an in the prescription of appointing 
an arbitrator (hakam) from each family in 
case of domestic disputes between hus- 
band and wife (q 4:35; see family; mar- 
riage and divorce; law and the 
qur'an). Wisdom (q.v.; hikma) and author- 
ity (q.v.; hukm) are also derived from the 
root letters h-k-m. The correlation between 
judgment and wisdom is demonstrated in 
the description of God as both "the judge" 
(al-hakim and al-hakam) and "the wise" [al- 
hakim; cf. Gimaret, Moms divins, 74, 347-9; 
see god and his attributes). God is also 
described in the Qur'an as "the best of 
judges" (khayr al-hakimin, Q 7:87; 10:109; 
12:80; cf. Gimaret, Moms divins, 74, 347-9) 
and "the most just of judges" (ahkam al- 
hakimin, q 11:45 anc l 95-8; see justice and 

The term hukm occurs in the early Mec- 
can verses (see chronology and the 
qjur'an) where human judgment of the 
pagans is contrasted to the divine judg- 
ment (q 5:50; see polytheism and athe- 
ism; idolatry and idolaters). Hukm is 
also mentioned in the Qur'an with regard 
to Muhammad's prophetic authority to 
judge individuals (see prophets and 



prophethood). Moses (q.v.), David (q.v.), 
Jesus (q.v.) and others are mentioned in this 
context, together with the Torah (q.v.; 
Q 5:44) and the Gospel (q.v.; Q 5-47). In this 
respect, though, special emphasis is placed 
upon Muhammad, and the Qur'an is 
called the "Arabic code/judgment" [hukm 
'arabi, o 13:37). Muhammad was, in fact, 
invited to Medina (q.v.) because of his per- 
sonal authority as a judge or arbiter in 
tribal disputes (see emigration; politics 

Derivatives of another triliteral root, 
q-d-y, are also employed for judgment or 
decision in the Qur'an; the verb (qada) 
occurs frequently, referring primarily to an 
act of God, indicating his absolute power 
(cf. Q 6:58; 39:75; see Damaghani, IVujuh, 
ii, 138; cf. Abu 1-Baqa', al-Kulliyyat, 705a; 
see power and impotence). The judicial 
decision (qada') is generally considered as 
part of judgment (hukm), since whenever 
someone gives a verdict or a decree, judg- 
ment is invariably passed (cf. Taj al-'ariis, 
s.v). But in the Qur'an, the verb hakama 
and its cognates usually relate to the 
Prophet's judicial activities (e.g. Q 4:105), 
while the verb qada, from which the word 
for "judge" (qddi) is derived, mainly refers 
(with the exception of Q 10:71 and 20:72) 
not to the judgment of a judge, but to a 
sovereign ordinance of either God or the 
Prophet. Both verbs occur simultaneously 
in Q 4:65: "But no, by your lord, they can 
have no real faith until they make you a 
judge (yuhakkimuka) in all disputes between 
them and thereafter find no resistance 
within their souls of what you decide 
(qadayta), but accept them with total con- 
viction." The first verb (yuhakkimuka) refers 
to the arbitrating aspect of the Prophet's 
activity, while the second (qadayta) empha- 
sizes the authoritative character of his 
decision, raising it to a level of belief 
(man, see belief and unbelief). While 
al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144; Kashshaf 

ad loc.) and al-Baydawi (d. prob. 716/ 
1316-7; Tafsir, ad loc.) only stress the em- 
phatic lam in the verse, al-Tabari (d. 310/ 
923; Tafsir, ad loc.) includes a reference to 
peoples' sincerity of belief as dependent 
upon whether God or the Prophet were 
appointed as judges in their affairs and 
their not feeling any uneasiness about the 
ensuing decisions. Al-Qumml (d. 328/939; 
Tafsir, ad loc), on the other hand, desig- 
nates yuhakkimuka as referring to All (see 
'al! b. abI talib) and the second verb 
(qadayta) to the Prophet's decision regard- 
ing 'All's imamate [walaya; see clients and 
clientage; friends and friendship). 

Muhammad had been sent by God to 
teach humans how to act, what to do and 
what to avoid in order to be judged favor- 
ably in the reckoning on the day of judg- 
ment (see good deeds; evil deeds; 
lawful and unlawful). In Islam, 
therefore, law is an all-embracing body 
of religious commandments (q.v.) and pro- 
hibitions (see forbidden; prohibited 
degrees); it consists not only of a legal sys- 
tem, but also of rules governing worship 
(q.v.) and ritual (see ritual and the 
qur'an). There is a recurrent insistence 
on the merits of forgiveness (q.v.) in the 
Qur'an, with words such as 'afa, safaha, gha- 
fara in Q 2:109; 3:134; 23:96; 42:37, 40, 43; 
64:14, etc. (see also mercy). Although a life 
(q.v.) for a life and an eye (q.v.) for an eye is 
ordained in the Qur'an (see retaliation; 
blood money), there is a qualification per- 
taining to the action of those who volun- 
tarily overlook the injustice done to them, 
a response which is regarded as atonement 
(q.v.) for their own actions. 

Ethics (see ethics and the qur'an) is an 
integral part of law, and the Qur'an in- 
cludes many ethical injunctions such as to 
judge with justice (q 4:58; 5:42; 6:152), not 
to offer bribes (o 2:188), to give true evi- 
dence (q 4:135; 5:8; see lie; witnessing 
and testifying) and to give full weight 



and measure (o 17:35; 55:7-9; 83:1-3; see 
weights and measures). Transactions 
and contracts are to be committed to 
writing and fulfilled, especially in relation 
to returning a trust or deposit (amdna) to 
its owner (e.g. £ 2:283; see breaking 

alliances; selling and buying). Judging 
others wrongly is abhorred in the Qur'an 
as is judging others on the basis of suspi- 
cions (q.v.; gann). A different aspect of 
judgment is portrayed in Q_ 49:11-12, where 
believers are asked not to laugh (see 
laughter), label, defame or be sarcastic to 
others (see mockery) as, in God's view, it is 
possible that those whom they judge are 
actually better than themselves. Explicit 
warning is given not to enquire curiously 
into the affairs of others as well as not to 
blame, set up one against the other, talk 
about each other or backbite (see gossip), 
the last-mentioned of which is equated 
with eating the flesh of one's dead brother 

Din is another expression for judgment in 
the Quran, although its etymology lends 
itself to two additional meanings: custom 
(see sunna) and religion (q.v.). Whatever 
their differences in origin and meaning, 
these meanings are conceptually related. 
Thus, dayn, which means debt (q.v.) due at 
a fixed time, semantically connects to din 
as custom or usage, which, in its turn, 
gives the idea of God-given direction (see 
astray; path or way). Judging involves 
guiding someone in the right direction, 
often through rebuke and retribution. Ara- 
bic philologists often derive din from ddna meaning to submit to the obligations 
imposed by God (for din in the sense of 
obedience [q.v.], see Jeffery, For. vocab., 
131-3; Izutsu, God, 219-29). "The judge" 
(al-dajydn) is one of God's names, which 
people also applied to All b. Abl Talib as 
the sage of the community (cf. Lisan al- 

'Arab, s.v.; for al-dayydn as an attribute of 
God, cf. also Gimaret, Moms divins, 350-1). 

Al-BaqillanI (d. 403/1013; Kitab al-Tamhid, 
345) distinguishes several possible mean- 
ings of din, including judgment in the sense 
of retribution, in the sense of decision 
(hukm), as well as of doctrine (madhhab) and 
the religion of truth (q.v.; din al-haqq). The 
sense of judgment and retribution occurs 
frequently in the early suras of the Meccan 
period: four times independently, and 
twelve as part of the expression "the day of 
judgment" (yawm al-din). This is synony- 
mous with "the day of reckoning" [yawm 
al-hisab, Q_ 40:27; 14:41; cf. 37:20, 26, 53), 
"the day of resurrection" (yawm al-qiyama), 
the "return" (ma 'ad) and "the hour" (al- 
sa'a, see eschatology; apocalypse). 
Many other names are given in the 
Qur'an; as many as 1,700 verses refer to 
the resurrection (q.v.; cf. Rasa'il Ikhwan al- 
Safd', iii, 286-7, which cites numerous 
names for the final day, such as yawm al- 
fasl,yawm al-tanddi, yawm al-azifa). 

Eschatological judgment in the Qur'an is 
inevitable (q 3:9) and God is swift in deal- 
ing with the account (hisab). In q 75:26-8 
there is reference to an initialjudgment 
occurring immediately after death, while 
other passages in q 56 (Surat al-Waqi'a, 
"The Event"), speak of the inevitable 
event, alluding to the hour of judgment 
(al-sa'a), when each soul will be evaluated 
according to what it has earned (see good 
and evil; record of human actions). At 
the final resurrection the whole present or- 
der gives way to a new one as portrayed in 
Q_ 14:48 (see DEATH AND THE DEAD). The 
rendering of accounts — required from all 
people — is to be given to God alone 
(q_ 13:40; 26:113). God is "prompt in de- 
manding an account" (q_ 2:202, 3:19 and 
199) of each person's actions, which will 
have been inscribed on a "roll." The day of 
judgment is described as the day when the 



world will be rolled up like a scroll and 
nothing on the scales of God's judgment 
will be overlooked: an atom's weight of 
good will be manifest and so will an atom's 
weight of evil. If the good deeds outweigh 
the bad, people will receive their accounts 
in their right hands and receive their re- 
ward, while those whose deeds are unfavo- 
rable will receive them in their left hands 
and be punished (see reward and 

"The Heights" (p_ 7, Surat al-A'raf ) men- 
tions those on the heights who hear and 
address the people of paradise (q.v.; 
Q_ 7:46-7; see PEOPLE OF THE HEIGHTS). It is 
only the sanctified, who, having perfected 
themselves, will enter paradise. Those who 
are not perfect will enter an intermediary 
state as they undergo final purification. 
"The Event" (q_ 56, Surat al-Waqi'a) seeks 
to judge three types of souls: the com- 
panions of the left, the companions of 
the right and those that are foremost (al- 
sabiqun), to be equated with those who 
are brought close to God's throne (al- 
muqarrabun, see throne of god). Clearly, 
there seems to be a fundamental difference 
of degree, between which some Shi'a and 
the Sufis did not hesitate to distinguish 
(see sufism and the q_ur'an): those who 
achieve salvation (q.v.) and those who 
attain beatitude. In their view, salvation is 
the reward for the exoteric religion, while 
the aim of the esoteric path is the beatific 
vision (see face of god; seeing and 
hearing; vision and blindness; visions). 

Judgment invariably involves an evalua- 
tion of right or wrong, true or false and 
good or bad (see PAIRS AND pairing). 
Philosophically, it involves the rational 
faculty as observed by the authors of the 
Ras'ail Ikhwan al-SaJa\ who regard "judg- 
ment on things as a product of the intellect 
(q.v.)." In the Quran, this meaning is ap- 
parent in the word ray used in numerous 

verses (e.g. Q_ 6:40) in which God asks peo- 
ple about their thoughts at the time when 
the wrath (see anger) of God will befall 
them and when the hour of judgment is 
near. Ray can be used in a variety of ways: 
seeing physically with one's eyes, consider- 
ing or perceiving things with one's heart 
(q.v.) and even sensing things through one's 
beliefs (cf. Lisan al-'Arab, s.v.; see knowl- 
edge and learning). It can also connote 
a belief about something or someone and 
for wrong belief, God's judgment falls upon 
people as punishment (cf. Taj al-'arus, s.v.; 
see chastisement and punishment). In 
the debates of the fourth/tenth century 
among the various legal schools, the ahl al- 
ray were those who were accused by the ahl 
al-hadith of practicing analogical deduction 
(qiyds) by giving judgments according to 
their opinions, as they could not find an 
appropriate prophetic tradition to support 
their arguments (see hadith and the 
qjjr'an; traditional disciplines of 
qjjr'anic study). 

Another qur'anic lexeme used in con- 
nection with judgment is rashad/ rushd. In 
4:6, God speaks of giving orphans (q.v.) 
their wealth when they attain "sound judg- 
ment" [rushd, see maturity). People differ 
with regard to the meaning of rushd: 
among the interpretations of the passage 
that he discusses, al-Tabari (Tafsir, iv, 252) 
relates that some consider it to be sound- 
ness of intellect and righteousness in reli- 
gion. Al-Zamakhsharl (Kashshdf, i, 501) also 
mentions several traditions: Abu Hanlfa 
(d. 150/767) explained that rushd was in- 
formed guidance on all aspects of good 
actions, while Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68/686-8) 
maintained that it was righteousness in 
using intellect and preserving wealth (q.v.), 
whereas Malik b. Anas (d. 179/796) and 
al-Shafi'T (d. 204/820) held that it was 
righteousness in religion. 

The notion of judgment raises the issue 



of intercessory disputation on behalf of 
the soul (q.v.; q 4:109), which invariably 
involves matters of repentance (tawba, see 
repentance AND penance), intercession 
(q.v.; shaja'a) and compassion (rahma). Not 
all Sunn! schools accept the possibility of 
prophetic intercession (shaja'a), and those 
who do argue about whether it applies only 
to Muhammad or to all prophets. The 
Shl'a, on the other hand, accept this doc- 
trine without question and also extend it 
to the Imams (see imam; shi'ism and the 
ijur'an). Although q 4:64 elucidates the 
concept of intercession (shaja'a), mention- 
ing the Prophet's role, other verses, such as 
q 16:111, speak of the "day that every soul 
shall come debating on its own behalf." 

In conclusion, it may be said that al- 
though the final, eschatological judgment 
dominates the qur'anic discourse, the con- 
cept is not absent from discussions of the 
present world, in which humans are called 
to judge fairly, and by what is best. 

Arzina R. Lalani 

Primary: Abu 1-Baqa° al-KaffawI, Ayyub b. Musa, 
al-Kulliyydt, ed. 'A. Darwlsh and M. al-Misrl, 
Beirut 1998; 'All b. Muhammad al-Walld, Taj al- 
'aqa'id wa-ma'dan aljawd'id, Beirut 1967; Baqil- 
lanl, Kitab al-Tamhld, ed. R.J. McCarthy, Beirut 
1957; Baydawl, Anwar; DamaghanI, Wujuh; Lisan 
al-Arab, Beirut 1955-6; al-Nu ( man, Abu Hamfa 
(al-Qadl), Ta'wil al-da'a'im, ed. M.H. al-A'zamT, 
Cairo 1968-72; Qumml, Tafsir, 2 vols., Beirut 
1968; Rasa'il Ikhwdn al-Safa', ed. Kh. Zirikll, 
4 vols., Cairo 1928; Tabarl, Tafsir, ed. 'All; Taj 
al-'arus, 10 vols., Cairo 1306-7; Zamakhsharl, 
Kashshaf, 4 vols., Beirut n.d. 

Secondary: M.M. Bar-Asher, Scripture and exegesis 
in early ImamT Shiism, Jerusalem 1999; D. Gimaret, 
Les noms divins en Islam, Paris 1988; Izutsu, God; 
Jeffery, For. vocab.; M. Khadduri, The Islamic 
concept qj justice, Baltimore 1984; Lane;J.D. 
McAuliffe, 'Debate with them in a better way.' 
The construction of a qur'anic commonplace, in 
A. Neuwirth et al. (eds.), Myths, historical archetypes 
and symbolic jigures in Arabic literature, Beirut 1999, 
163-88; J. Schacht, An introduction to Islamic law, 
Oxford 1974. 


Mount (Jabal) Judl, also written Djudi 
(modern Turkish, Cudi), the name of a 
mountain mass and its highest point in SE 
Turkey, near the borders of Iraq (q.v.) and 
Syria (q.v.). Mount Judl is attested once in 
the Qur'an, at q 11:44, as al-Jiidl, the site 
where Noah's (q.v.) ark (q.v.) rested on 
dry land after the flood (see MYTHS and 
legends in the quR'AN; scripture and 
the quR'AN; geography). There has 
been considerable disagreement about 
the actual site to which this story refers. 
Largely due to western Christian misinter- 
pretation of the Hebrew "hard Ararat, " liter- 
ally "mountains of Ararat" [Gen 8:4), as 
Mount Ararat (q.v.), the passage has been 
interpreted as referring to a single moun- 
tain since about the tenth century. Thus, 
the tallest mountain near the present-day 
border of Turkey with Armenia, once 
known as Masik, came to be named Mount 
Ararat and is generally identified today as 
the site of the ark's landing. In the Hebrew 
scriptures the name Ararat was actually the 
Hebrew rendition of Urartu, the name of 
the ancient kingdom that covered the terri- 
tory of eastern Turkey, and included both 
mountains, today's Ararat and Jabal Judl. 
This extensive mountainous area has been 
known variously as Qardu in Aramaic and 
Syriac texts; Gordyene by Greek, Roman, 
and later Christian writers; and Kordukh 
in Armenian. The Jewish- Aramaic Targum 
Onkelos, possibly based on an earlier Baby- 
lonian tradition, translates the Hebrew of 
Genesis 8:4 as "ture Qardu" ("mountains 
of Qardu") and later rabbinic sources have 
generally described Qardu as the moun- 
tains where the ark rested (cf. T a barl, His- 
tory, 366 n. 1137). The variant forms of this 
name led some scholars to connect Qardu 
wrongly with Kurd and Kurdistan, despite 
the difference between K and Q 
According to Yaqut (Mujam, ii, 144-5), 



Judl ill the Qur'an seems to have denoted a 
mountain in Arabia, a designation possibly 
based on earlier Arabian traditions (see 
The transfer of the designated locale from 
Arabia to upper Mesopotamia and the ter- 
ritory of Urartu must have taken place 
early during the Arab invasion of that 
region. Today, the areas around both 
Mount Ararat and Jabal Judl are filled with 
memorials and legends referring to the 
flood and the life of Noah (q.v.) and his 
family after they left the ark. This holds 
true about a particular structure, once a 
monastery, on the supposed site of Noah's 
worship of God after the flood. According 
to Le Strange, from the village of Jazlrat 
Ibn 'Umar, Judl was visible to the east, 
with the "Mosque of Noah" on its summit 
and Qaryat Thamanln ("the village of 
eighty") at the mountain's foot [Lands, 0,4). 
The village's name refers to one of several 
traditions about how many humans sur- 
vived the flood in the ark, which vary 
between seven survivors (Noah, his three 
sons and their spouses) and eighty, includ- 
ing seventy-three descendants of Seth, son 
of Adam. This village is supposedly where 
Noah himself settled after the flood and 
although all the survivors except for Noah 
and his immediate descendants perished, 
all of today's humanity is descended from 
those seven or eight. Because of the 
qur'anic reference to al-Judi and to its 
early identification with Noah, the moun- 
tain and its surrounding area became a pil- 
grimage site for Muslims, Jews and eastern 

William M. Brinner 

Primary: Tabarl, The history of al-Taban. i. From 
the creation to the flood, trans. F. Rosenthal, Albany 
1989; al-Tha'labl, 'Abd al-Malik b. Muhammad, 
'Ara'is al-majdlis, Cairo 1900, 42; Yaqut, Buldan, 
ed. Wiistenfeld, i, 932 (Thamanln); ii, 144-5 (J ucu i- 

Secondary: Th. Bois, Kurds, Kurdistan, in EI 3 , v, 
447-9; L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 7 vols., 
Philadelphia 1955, v, 186, n. 48 (to i, 165, in the 
story of Noah); G. Le Strange, The lands of the 
eastern Caliphate, Cambridge 1905; M. Streck, 
DjudI, in Bf, ii, 573-4. 


see cups and vessels 

Jugular Vein see artery and vein 

Justice and Injustice 

Equitable action according to God's will; 
action that transgresses God's bounds. One 
of the key dichotomies in the Quran, it 
separates divine from human action, moral 
from immoral behavior (see ethics and 
the qjur'an). The Qur'an uses several dif- 
ferent words and metaphors to convey this 
moral balance. 'Adl and qist can be used to 
speak of justice as equitable action but jus- 
tice can also be defined as correct or truth- 
ful action, in which case sidq or haqq may 
be used. Metaphors (see metaphor) such 
as the balance (mizan, see weights and 
measures; instruments), inheritance (q.v.) 
shares (nasib) and even brotherhood (see 
brother and brotherhood) can de- 
scribe the underlying principles of justice. 
The usual word for injustice in the Qur'an 
is £ulrn, which has the sense of stepping 
beyond the boundaries of right action (see 
boundaries and precepts), specifically, a 
lalim is one who does wrong to others or to 
himself. But human injustice can also be 
expressed in the larger sense of sinning, 
opposing God, or ascribing partners to 
God, for which there are many terms, such 
as fahshd" and baghy (see SIN, major and 
minor; polytheism and atheism; 

In post-qur'anic Arabic, 'adl became the 
technical term for justice and the Mu'ta- 
zili theologians were known as ahlu I- 'adl 



wa-l-tawhid, "the people of justice and 
unity," for their defense of the doctrine of 
God's essential justice (see mu'tazilis; 
theology and THE qur'an). The Qur'an 
also uses the term 'adl but relatively rarely 
(only fourteen times in the sense of justice 
or equity) and in a much broader fashion. 
While God's words are described as 'adl in 
Q_ 6:115, more common is the use of 'adl or 
its verbal derivatives to mean equal treat- 
ment of wives or disputants (o 4:3, 58, 129; 
5:8; 42:15; 49:9; see WOMEN AND THE 

qur'an; family; debate and disputa- 
tion; social interactions). The qur'anic 
range is demonstrated by the use of three 
synonyms for 'adl: qist, "equity," in the case 
of just witnesses (o_ 5:8; cf 4:135), sidq, 
"truthfulness," in o_ 6:115 and ihscin, "good 
deeds" (q.v.), in Q_ 16:90. Nowhere in the 
Qur'an is God called al-'adl, although this 
is often listed as one of his most beautiful 
names (see god and his attributes). 

As for the many other qur'anic terms that 
may denote justice, most continue the 
metaphor of symmetry and balance such 
as the mizftn (pi. mawazin), the "scales of 
justice," in which good deeds are weighed 
on the last day (o_ 7:8-9; 23:102-3; 101:6-7; 
see last judgment). But scholars have 
argued that the idea of justice must be 
extended to include other metaphors; for 
instance, Khadduri [Islamic conception, 7) 
sees an abstract principle of equal rights in 
the declaration that the believers are 
brothers (o 49:10). Further, Rahbar [God of 
justice, 231-2) points out that haqq, "truth or 
reality," may also be translated as "justice." 
So, o 16:3 (khalaqa l-samawati wa-l-arda bi-l- 
haqq) should be interpreted as "He created 
the heavens and the earth with justice." 
Two of these metaphors are connected in 
Q_ 7:8, which reads, "The weighing on that 
day is just (wa-l-waznuyawma'idhin al- 
haqq)." But here Arberry and Rahbar both 
translate haqq as "true" even though 
al-Baydawi (Anwar) and the Jalalayn gloss 

it as 'adl; al-Qurtubl (Jami'J regards the 
whole phrase as a metaphor for justice. 
The fact that the Arabic could support 
both readings indicates that the technical 
differentiation of 'adl and haqq is a post- 
qur'anic development. Wagner [La justice, 
13-4) has argued that the absence of a tech- 
nical term for justice in the Qur'an allows 
for a conception of justice which tran- 
scends human language. 

A similar semantic range is found for 
injustice. Jawr, the technical word for injus- 
tice in classical theology, is not found in the 
Qur'an; rather, several words are used to 
convey the sense of injustice. For example, 
Q_ 16:90 lists three terms as having a mean- 
ing opposite to 'adl: "Surely God bids to 
justice ('adl), good deeds and giving to rela- 
tives; and he forbids indecency (al-fahsha'), 
disobedience (al-munkar) and insolence (al- 
baghy)." Of these words, the first two are 
mentioned in dozens of other places in the 
Qur'an. The last, while less common, is 
also listed as an antonym to 'adl in o 49:9. 
Another word indicative of injustice is 
tdghut (in fourteen places this word, as well 
as other derivatives of t-gh-y, are connected 
with unbelief, kufr; see e.g. o_ 2:257; 5:64; 
see belief and unbelief; insolence and 
obstinacy; idols and images); hadm is 
also placed in apposition to lulm in 
Q 20:112. 

£ulm. is most usually a general word for 
sin or transgression and so is found as a 
synonym for zur, "falsehood" (see lie), in 
Q_ 25:4 and for mujrim, "sinner," in Q_ 7:40-1 
(see also Q_ 11:116). The transgressor (zdlim, 
pi. zdlimUn) is referred to over one hundred 
times. For example, in Q_ 2:35 Adam and 
Eve (q.v.) are warned that they will be 
among the zdlimun if they transgress God's 
command not to touch the tree; theft (q.v.; 

Q. 5'38-9; I2: 75) anc l ly m S ( e -S- Q. 6:21) also 
make one a zdlim (Izutsu, Concepts, 164-72). 
But while 'adl is never used in explicit refer- 
ence to God, £«/m is; in fact, o 20:112 dem- 



onstrates a technical usage of guhn to refer 
to God's actions, which are explicitly not 
unjust (also o 3:108; 6:131; 11:117). Further- 
more, the emphatic form galldm is only 
used as a negative description of God; it is 
found in five exhortations that declare that 
God is not unjust (e.g. o_ 3:182). The com- 
mon qur'anic phrase "those who wronged 
themselves" {anfusahum ya^limun in o_ 2:57 
and nine other places; galamu anfusahum in 
0_ 3:117 and five other places; see also 
lalimun li-nafsihi in o_ 18:35; 35:32; 37:113) 
almost always refers to ancient peoples 
who were punished, or will be damned to 
hell, because they did not recognize God's 
prophets (see generations; prophets 
and prophethood; punishment stories; 
hell and hellfire). ^alama nafsahu in 
0_ 2:231 and 65:1, however, refers to those 
who do not follow proper divorce proceed- 
terms of God, therefore, injustice may be 
seen as the diametrical opposite of justice 
but in terms of human behavior, injustice 
is not a lack of justice as much as it is an 
active resistance of God's guidance, o 65:1 
specifies: "the one who transgresses the 
bounds of God has wronged himself" 
(wa-manyata'adda hududa Uahifa-qad galama 

Interestingly, the very words for just 
actions also share Arabic roots with meta- 
phors for injustice. So o_ 6:150 defines the 
unbelievers as those who make something 
else equivalent to their lord (wa-hum bi- 
rabbihim ya'dilun, see also o_ 6:1, 70). 'Adala 
'an means "to deviate from the right 
course," and so Lane (v, 1972) understands 
Q_ 27:60 as "they are a people who deviate" 
(qawmun ya'dilun). Attempts to reconcile 
these divergent usages in the Qur'an are 
attributed to very early sources (see, for 
instance, the explanation of Abd al-Malik 
b. Marwan [d. 86/705] in Lisan al-'Arab, xi, 
431-2; partial trans, in Khadduri, Islamic 
conception, 7-8). The qdsitun also deviate 

from the right course in o 72:14-5, where 
they are placed in opposition to the 

Moving from semantics to the broad 
teachings of the Qur'an, one can isolate 
three fields of moral action in terms of jus- 
tice and injustice: human-human relations; 
human-divine relations; and God's own 
activity. As for the first category, specific 
areas addressed by the Qur'an include 
both public and private affairs, such as fair 
measures in the market (o_ 6:152; see 
markets), fair testimony (o_ 4:135; 5:8, 95, 

contracts and alliances), just record- 
ing of debts (q 2:282; see debt), impartial 
judgments (o_ 4:58; see judgment) and just 
treatment of co-wives (o_ 4:3, 129; see 
concubines) and orphans (q.v.; 0,4:3, 10; 
6:152). There are also general injunctions 
to act and speak in a just manner (o_ 5:8; 
6:152; 16:90; 49:9). These injunctions are 
cited extensively in books of Islamic law 
and works on ethics (see law and the 
qur'an). The existence of these exhorta- 
tions is itself qur'anic recognition that 
human beings are unjust to one another, 
particularly when they are in positions of 
power (see power and impotence; 
oppression), o 4:10 specifically refers to 
those who consume the assets of orphans 
unjustly (oilman) and o_ 4:129 simply states: 
"You will not be able to be equitable 
(ta'dilu) among [your] wives." 

God's justice in relationship to his crea- 
tures has already been mentioned in meta- 
phors of the scales of justice and the many 
qur'anic references to his judgment on the 
last day. But God also created the heavens 
(see heaven and sky) and the earth (q.v.) 
with justice (o_ 6:73 and eleven other 
places; see creation; cosmology), and 
his words of revelation continue that work 
of justice (q_ 6:115; see revelation and 
inspiration; word of god). In fact, God 
is intimately involved in all human actions 



"for God in the qur'anic conception inter- 
feres in the minutest details of human 
affairs" (Izutsu, Concepts, 166; see freedom 
and predestination). Acts among hu- 
mans, therefore, are not merely in terms of 
human justice but rather they are to occur 
within God's bounds (hududu llah). Further, 
when speaking of divorce in Q_ 2:231 and 
65:1, the Qur'an uses language otherwise 
reserved for judgment day ("he wronged 
himself," ^alama nafsahu) to describe those 
who would transgress God's rules. 

The third category, God's own character- 
ization as just, is dealt with primarily in 
terms of his right to judge humankind. 
The defense of this right is expressed in an 
account of history repeated throughout the 
Qur'an. Not only did God create the heav- 
ens and the earth, he asked the souls (see 
soul) of all humankind to testify: "Am I 
not your lord?" (q_ 7:172), thereby establish- 
ing his right to judge them, should they 
begin worshipping idols (see idols and 
images). According to the Qur'an, human 
beings forgot that covenant (q.v.) and went 
astray (q.v.), despite the many prophets and 
warners (see warner) sent to remind 
them. In going astray, of course, they 
wronged themselves {^alamu anfusahum, see 
above). And as for the many peoples whom 
God destroyed for their wickedness, he 
would never have done so unjustly [bi-^ulm, 
o 6:131 and 11:117). A s mentioned above, 
God's scales for weighing good deeds are 
just and he will not begrudge anyone (la 
ya^limu) the weight of an ant (o 4:40). The 
Qur'an specifically complains about those 
who prefer the judgment (hukm) of the Age 
of Ignorance (q.v.) to the judgment of God 
(q 5:50). The qur'anic exhortation that 
believers render justice and be just in their 
actions, therefore, is part of their accep- 
tance of this cosmology of justice. 

Although, as noted above, the Qur'an 
does not call God al- 'adl, this epithet is 
found in lists of God's most beautiful 

names. In his treatise on these names, 
al-Ghazali (d. 505/11 11) finds an elegant 
connection among the various qur'anic 
images of justice and God's creative act. In 
allusion to o 82:6-7 which reads: "your 
generous lord who created you and shaped 
you and wrought you in symmetry ['ada- 
laka, see biology as the creation and 
stages OF life)," he writes: "By creating 
these [bodily] members he is generous, 
and by placing them in their particular 

placement he is just He suspended the 

hands and arms from the shoulders, and 
had he suspended them from the head or 
the loins or the knees, the imbalance result- 
ing from that would be evident What 

you should know, in short, is that nothing 
has been created except in the placement 
intended for it" (Ghazali, Names, 93-4). By 
focusing on God's intended placement as 
evidence of his justice, al-Ghazali both 
displays his orthodox theology (God's 
actions define justice, not the reverse) and 
also the lexical opposition of justice to 
injustice (guhn), literally "that which is out 
of place." 

Al-Ghazall's attempt to reconcile qur- 
'anic conceptions of justice and injustice is 
the product of centuries of theological 
speculation. Already in the years immedi- 
ately following Muhammad's death, Mus- 
lims witnessed vast examples of human 
injustice during the civil wars (fitan) that 
tore apart the early Muslim community- 
Questions naturally arose as to God's role 
in acts of human injustice. The Kharijis 
(q.v.) argued that the grave sinner (fisiq) 
was no longer a Muslim and must be com- 
bated with the sword in this world, while 
others said that God alone would punish 
the grave sinner at judgment day. These 
debates continued to ask whether human 
and divine acts are separate from one 
another. Mu tazills began to argue that 
God was essentially just and therefore 
bound to do the better, while human 



beings could commit injustices by acting 
against God's will. Others understood 
God's action and human action to be inti- 
mately connected, with nothing occurring 
outside of God's will. As a result, qur'anic 
interpreters derived two distinctive notions 
of justice from the Qur'an: Mif tazills like 
al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144) found that 
"God's justice implies 'human free will' " 
and their opponents, like al-Baydawi 
(d. 716/1316-7), maintained "that God's 
justice lies in his dealing as possessor and 
Lord, and in making decisions according 
to his will" (Ibrahim, Concept, 14). Al- 
Baydawl's position thus closely mirrors 
that of the Ash'arls, who held that God's 
actions were by definition just. 

Islamic law also offers interpretations of 
qur'anic justice but does so largely by 
maintaining a separation between divine 
and human justice. The classical legal 
handbooks were organized into two major 
categories, beginning with duties owed to 
God ('ibadat), followed by duties owed to 
other human beings (mu'amalat) . Such a 
categorization may have developed from a 
pseudo-Aristotelian conception of justice 
(Heffening, Aufbau, 107). Books of legal 
theory dealt primarily with questions of 
procedure and interpretation and only 
rarely with the relationship between divine 
and human justice. The qur'anic concep- 
tion of divine justice as invading all aspects 
of human interaction played, however, a 
key role in defining court procedure. At 
least in theory, the Islamic judge was only 
to render justice on the basis of the appar- 
ent evidence, and was not responsible for 
the actual truth of a case, since ultimately 
the plaintiffs were responsible to God (Hef- 
fening, Aufbau, 107). This also explains the 
wide use of oaths (q.v.) in the Islamic court 
to ascertain the truth of a matter (following 
the qur'anic precedent in Q_ 24:4-9; see 
chastity). Yet unlike court function in 

Judaism, court punishments in Islam are 
not in lieu of eternal punishment. Rather, 
God reserves the right to exact further jus- 
tice on the last day (see Q_ 5:37; 24:19). The 
legal principles of istihsan and maslaha 
have been used by medieval and modern 
reformers to argue that general qur'anic 
injunctions to promote justice may over- 
ride specific qur'anic laws. The principle of 
istihsan is sometimes based on o_ 39:55, "fol- 
low the best (ahsana) of that which has 
been sent down to you" (see also Q_ 39:18). 
Likewise, the virtue of equity {insaf, a word 
not found in the Qur'an) in Islamic ethical 
treatises may be seen as a continuation of 
principles of equity and justice in the 

The movement from the injustice of the 
Age of Ignorance (jdhiliyya) to the justice of 
the Muslim community, described in the 
Qur'an, has become one of the central 
teachings of the Islamic religion. This 
movement is not merely a historical event, 
played out in the revelation of the Qur'an 
to the Prophet but it is also the practical 
theology of the Qadi's court, the motivat- 
ing force of proselytizers (see invitation) 
and the explanation of God's continued 
action in this world. This movement will be 
complete on the last day, when each soul 
will be rewarded for what it has earned, 
and there will be no injustice (o_ 40:17). 

Jonathan E. Brockopp 

Primary: Baydawl, Anwar; al-Ghazall, Abu 
Hamid Muhammad, The ninety-nine beautiful names 
of God, trans. D. Burrell and N. Daher, Cam- 
bridge 1995; Ibn Miskawayh, The refinement oj 
character, trans. C.K. Zurayk, Beirut 1968; id., 
Tahdhib al-akhldq, ed. C.K. Zurayk, Beirut 1966; 
Jaldtayn; Lisan al-'Amb; Qurtubl, JamV. 
Secondary: M. Arkoun, Insaf, in EI 3 , iii, 1236-7; 
S. Burkhalter, Completion in continuity. Cosmo- 
gony and ethics in Islam, in R. Lovin and 
F. Reynolds (eds.), Cosmogony and ethical order, 
Chicago 1985, 225-50; van Ess, to, i; L. Gardet, 
Fasik, in ei 3 , ii, 833-4; W. Hallaq, A history of 


Islamic legal theories. An introduction to Sunm usul 
al-fiqh, Cambridge 1997; W. Heffening, Zum 
Aufbau der islamischen Rechtswerke, in W. Hef- 
fening and W. Kirfel (eds.), Studien Geschichte und 
Kultur des nahen undfernen Ostens. Paul Kahle zum 
60. Geburtstag, Leiden 1935, 101-18; L. Ibrahim, 
The concept of divine justice according to 
al-ZamakhsharT and al-BaydawI, in Hamdard 
islamicus 3 (1980), 3-17; Izutsu, Concepts; M. Khad- 
duri, The Islamic conception of justice, Baltimore 
1984; Lane; R. Paret, Istihsan and Istislah, in El 2 , 
iv, 255-9; D. Rahbar, God of justice. A study in the 
ethical doctrine of the Quran, Leiden i960; E. Tyan, 
( Adl, in ei 2 , i, 209-10; id., Histoire de ^organisation 
judiciaire en pays d "Islam, Leiden 1960*; G. Wagner, 
La justice dans Vancien testament ei le Goran aux 
niveaux des manages et des echanges de biens, Neu- 
chatel 1977; W.M. Watt, The formative period of 
Islamic thought, Edinburgh 1973; A.J. Wensinck, 
The Muslim creed, Cambridge 1932. 



A cube shaped building situated inside 
the Great Mosque (al-masjid al-hardm) at 
Mecca. Although the term ka'ba is attested 
only twice in the Quran (o 5:95, 97), there 
are other qur'anic expressions that have 
traditionally been understood as designa- 
tions for this structure (i.e. certain instances 
of al-bayt [lit. "the house," see house, 
domestic and divine]; as well as oimasjid 
[see mosque]). In Islamic tradition, it is 
often referred to as "the house (or sanctu- 
ary) of God" (bayt Allah), and for the vast 
majority of Muslims it is the most sacred 
spot on earth. The name Ka'ba is gener- 
ally explained as indicating its "cubic" or 
"quadrangular" (murabba') form. 

Its ground plan is an irregular oblong, 
the size of which has been variously 
stated: a reliable approximation is 40 feet 
(12 meters) long, 33 feet (10 m.) wide and 
50 feet (15 m.) high. Its four corners are 
aligned approximately north (the "Iraqi" 
corner), east, south (the "Yemeni" corner) 
and west. Built into its eastern corner is a 
large black stone, known as al-hajar al-aswad 
or al-rukn, which is the object of special 
veneration when worshippers make the rit- 

ual sevenfold circumambulation (tavoaf) 
around the outside of the Ka'ba (see 

The building has one door, situated to- 
wards the eastern end of the northeastern 
wall and raised about six feet (2 m.) above 
ground level. It is accessible from steps that 
are wheeled into place but worship takes 
place around and outside the Ka'ba. Entry 
inside, although highly prized, is not a 
required act, and access to the interior is 
limited. Adjacent to the northwestern 
wall is a semi-circular area known as al-hijr, 
demarcated by a low wall (sometimes 
referred to as al-hatim) that does not quite 
touch the wall of the Ka'ba. The building 
is normally enclosed in an ornately deco- 
rated covering cloth known as the kiswa, 
which is renewed annually. 

The Ka'ba in Islamic practice 
The Ka'ba is the focus of the hajj (major 
pilgrimage) and the 'umra (minor pilgrim- 
age), in that each begins and ends with the 
ceremony of circumambulation (see pil- 
grimage). The hajj, however, involves the 
performance of rituals at a distance from 
the Ka'ba, outside Mecca itself, and the 
law places a greater importance on some of 
those rituals — such as the "standing" 
(wuquf) at 'Arafa (see 'arafat) and the 


slaughtering of animals at Mina — than it 
does upon the circumambulation of the 
Ka'ba. To miss the wuquf is usually 
counted as invalidating the hajj, while the 
day of slaughtering (ioth of Dhu 1-Hijja; 
see calendar) is often identified with 
"the great day of the hajj" (q_ 9:3; see 
slaughter). Wellhausen proposed that 
Muhammad linked pre-Islamic hajj cere- 
monies that had nothing to do with Mecca 
(q.v.) and the Ka'ba, with those of the 
'umra, which were performed in Mecca 
around the Ka'ba, in order to give the 
Islamic hajj a greater association with 

Muslims must face towards the Ka'ba 
when performing the obligatory prayers 
(saldt, see prayer) and certain other rituals 
such as the slaughter of animals for con- 
sumption or as religious offerings (see 
The dead are buried facing towards it (see 
DEATH and THE dead). In other words, 
the Ka'ba marks the qibla (q.v.), the sacred 
direction that distinguishes Islam from 
other monotheistic religions. It figures 
large in traditions about pre-Islamic Ara- 
bia (the jdhiliyy a, see age of ignorance) 
and the life of the Prophet (see SIRA AND 
the q_ur'an), and 'All (see 'ali b. abi 
talib) is sometimes reported to have been 
born inside it. It features only to a limited 
extent in Muslim eschatology (q.v.), which 
centers much more on Jerusalem (q.v.). 

The Ka'ba and the Qur'an 
The expression al-ka'ba occurs only twice 
in the Qur'an (q_ 5:95, 97) and commenta- 
tors naturally identify each as references to 
the Ka'ba at Mecca. In addition there are 
many other passages which are understood 
as alluding to it, using the term al-bayt 
(house or sanctuary), sometimes qualified 
by an adjective such as "sacred" (haram), 
"ancient" ('atiq) or "visited" (? ma 'mur, 

°- 5-95 occurs in regulations which pro- 
hibit the muhrim (a person who has entered 
the sacral state of ihram that is obligatory 
for anyone making hajj or 'umra) from kill- 
ing game (see ritual purity; hunting 
and fishing). It lays down that, if a muhrim 
does intentionally kill a wild animal, he 
must provide as compensation (jazfl), from 
among the animals of the pasture (al- 
na'am), an equivalent to the animal killed, 
"as an offering to reach the Ka'ba" (hadyan 
bdligha l-ka'bati). 5:97 tells us that God has 
made the Ka'ba, the sacred house (al-ka'ba 
al-bayt al-hardm), a support (? qiydm; com- 
mentators debate the precise meaning) for 
the people, together with the sacred month 
(see months), the (animal) offerings (al- 
hady) and the garlands {al-qald'id; which are 
placed on the necks of the offerings). 

Some of the passages in which "the 
house" (al-bayt) is understood to mean the 
Ka'ba associate it with Abraham (q.v.) and, 
slightly less consistently, Ishmael (q.v). 
Q_ 2:125 alludes to God's making "the 
house" a place of meeting (? mathdba) and 
sanctuary (amn), and commanding that 
Abraham's "standing place" (maqdm 
Ibrahim) should be a place of prayer. It goes 
on to refer to God's ordering Abraham and 
Ishmael, "Purify my house for those who 
circumambulate, make retreat, bow and 
prostrate [there] " (an tahhird baytiya lil- 
td'ijina wa-l-'dkifina wa-l-rukka'i l-sujudi, see 
those for whom it is to be purified is re- 
peated with a slight variant in Q_ 22:26 
which recalls that God "prepared"(? baw- 
wa'a) for Abraham the place of the house 
and commanded him to purify "my house 
for those who circumambulate, stand, bow 
and prostrate [there]." Q_ 2:127 alludes to 
Abraham and Ishmael "raising the founda- 
tions" of the house (wa-idh yarfa'u Ibrdhimu 
l-qawd'ida mina l-bayti wa-Ismd'ilu) . These 
verses are understood as referring to the 
building or rebuilding of the Ka'ba by 


Abraham and Ishmael at God's command 
(see further below) and Q_ 3:96, which says 
that the first house established for human- 
kind was that at Bakka (inna awwala baytin 
wudi'a lil-ndsi la-lladhi bi-Bakkata), is also fre- 
quently interpreted as a reference to the 
origins of the Ka'ba. 

Other qur'anic references to the house 
associate it with hajj, 'umra and animal 
offerings. Q_ 3:97 (following the immedi- 
ately preceding mention of the "first 
house" at Bakka) states that in it are clear 
signs — the standing place of Abraham, 
that those who enter it have security, and 
that those of humankind who are able 
have the duty to God of the hajj of the 
house (hajju l-bayti). Q_ 2:158 assures those 
who make the hajj of the house, or 'umra, 
that there is no harm if they circumambu- 
late al-Safa and al-Marwa (see safa and 
marwa), which are among the signs (q.v.) 
of God (inna l-Safa wa-l-Marwata min 
sha'a'iri lldhi). Al-Safa and al-Marwa are 
the names given to two small hills outside 
the "sacred mosque" (al-masjid al-haram) in 
Mecca. Circumambulation of them, or 
rather passage between them (usually 
called say), is part of the ritual required 
both for the hajj and the 'umra, and the 
commentators explain in various ways why 
it might have been thought that making 
tawafoi them involved "harm." 

Q_ 5:2 includes among a number of things 
which must not be profaned "those going 
to the sacred house, seeking merit and 
pleasure from their lord" (yabtaghunafadlan 
min rabbihim wa-ridwdnan) . Q_ 22:29, follow- 
ing a brief setting out of the duty of hajj in 
connection with the slaughter and con- 
sumption of animals, says that after the 
food has been eaten those taking part 
should end their (ritual) dishevelment, fulfil 
their vows and make circumambulation of 
the ancient house (bi-l-bayti l-'atiqi). Q_ 22:33 
indicates that the animals which are to be 
offered may be used until a certain time, 

after which they are to be brought to the 
ancient house (for slaughter). 

o 8:35 makes it clear that those who 
"disbelieve" also worship at the house, 
although their prayer (saldt) is merely 
whistling and handclapping [mukd'an wa- 
tasdiyatan, see belief and unbelief; 
mockery), c) 106:3 urges that Quraysh 
(q.v.) should worship "the lord of this 
house" in gratitude for what he has done 
for them. In o_ 52:4 there is an oath, "by 
the visited (?) house!" (wa-l-bayti l-ma'muri, 
see oaths). Sometimes this is understood 
not as referring to the Ka'ba itself but to 
its prototype in the highest heaven (see 
heaven and sky), constantly circumambu- 
lated by angels (see angel) beneath the 
throne of God (q.v.). 

The frequent qur'anic expression al- 
masjid al-haram (q_ 2:144, 149, 150, 191, 196, 
217; 5:2; 8:34; 9:7, 19, 28; 17:1; 22:25; 48:25, 
27) also sometimes seems to have the gen- 
eral sense of "sanctuary," just like bayt, and 
in commentary is occasionally equated 
with the Ka'ba. The most obvious example 
concerns the so-called qibla verses (q_ 2:144, 
149, 150) in which God orders the believers 
to turn their faces towards al-masjid al- 
haram. These verses are understood as the 
revelation that specifies the qibla for Mus- 
lims. Some commentators argue that the 
precise direction of the qibla is the Ka'ba, 
or even a particular point of the Ka'ba, 
and this leads them to read al-masjid al- 
haram here as equivalent to the Ka'ba. 

Historically, the mosque containing the 
Ka'ba in Mecca, known as al-masjid al- 
haram, is reported to have been built only 
after the death of the Prophet. The tradi- 
tional scholars assert, however, that in pre- 
Islamic times the area around the Ka'ba 
was known as al-masjid al-haram even 
though there was no building so-called. In 
this way they avoid the apparent anachron- 
ism involved in accepting that all of the 
Quran had been revealed before the death 


of the Prophet and that its references to al- 
masjid al-haram apply to the same entity that 
bears that name in Islam, while yet agree- 
ing that the mosque in Mecca post-dates 
the death of the Prophet. 

The Ka 'ba in Muslim tradition 
Commentary on the above verses is con- 
cerned to relate them on the one hand to a 
large number of traditional stories con- 
cerned with the origins of the Meccan 
Ka'ba and the activity of Abraham in con- 
nection with it; and on the other with legal 
discussions of the hajj, the 'umra and the 
rites associated with them (see LAW AND 
THE q_ur j an). Thus, the discussions in 
works of commentary draw on, and are 
themselves reflected in, many other genres 
of Islamic literature — stories of the 
prophets (see prophets and prophet- 
hood), law books, local histories of 
Mecca, traditional biographical material 
on Muhammad, and others. 

As for its origins and pre-Islamic history, 
several reports say that the Ka'ba existed 
before the creation of the world as a sort of 
froth on the primordial waters from which 
God made the world. It was the place of 
worship for Adam (see ADAM AND eve) 
after his expulsion from paradise (q.v.; see 
also fall of man; garden), compensating 
him for his loss and allowing him to imitate 
on earth the circumambulation of the 
angels around the divine throne in heaven. 
Bakka in o_ 3:96 is interpreted as a name of 
Mecca, various explanations of it being 
adduced. This "first house" was destroyed 
in the flood God had sent to punish the 
people of Noah (q.v.), although its "foun- 
dations" (qawa'id, Q_ 2:127) remained. 

Subsequently, in the time of Abraham, 
God commanded him to go to Mecca to 
rebuild it. Ishmael was already in Mecca, 
having previously been taken and left there 
together with his mother Hagar by Abra- 
ham. The father and son then fulfilled 

God's command. The black stone was re- 
vealed to them by an angel and placed in 
the wall where it is today. It was, say some 
reports, originally white but it become 
black because of the sins of the people of 
the Age of Ignorance (jahiliyya) or, alterna- 
tively, as a consequence of the many fires 
which afflicted the Ka'ba. When the walls 
became too high for Abraham to reach, he 
stood on a stone which is often identified as 
the maqdm Ibrahim ("standing place of 
Abraham") referred to in Q_ 2:125. After the 
building was finished that stone was placed 
outside the Ka'ba and, although it was 
subsequently moved around, it is still there 
near the Ka'ba today. Having completed 
the work, Abraham then summoned all of 
humankind, including the generations still 
unborn, to come to fulfil there the rituals 
which he himself had been shown by the 
angel Gabriel (q.v.). Some see the maqdm 
Ibrahim as a stone on which Abraham stood 
to deliver this summons. 

Prominent in these and other reports 
about the Ka'ba is the idea of the navel of 
the earth. The Ka'ba or bayt is described as 
the central point from which the earth was 
spread out. It is the point of the earth that 
is directly beneath the divine throne in the 
highest heaven, and each of the seven 
heavens has its analogue. Similarly, it 
stands above the center of the seven 
spheres beneath the earth. If any one of 
these bayts were to fall, they would all fall 
one upon another down to the lowest earth 
fild tukhum al-ard al-sufld). In reports of this 
type the distinction between the bayt and 
the town of Mecca is often blurred so that 
Mecca, which is situated in fact in a valley, 
is sometimes referred to as a hill or moun- 
tain (jabal Makka), in accordance with the 
concept of the navel as a protrusion above 
the surrounding area. (For further material 
on this concept, see the article of Wensinck 
given in the bibliography.) 

Having been instituted by Abraham as a 


center of monotheism, the Ka'ba was 
then, over time, corrupted and it came to 
be the center of the polytheism (see poly- 
theism and atheism) and idolatry [shirk, 
dominated central Arabia in the centuries 
before the sending of the prophet Muham- 
qur'an). Some remnants of Abrahamic 
monotheism survived but idols (see idols 
and images) were installed and wor- 
shipped in and around the Ka'ba. Muham- 
mad's preaching and activities eventually 
achieved the defeat of Arab paganism and 
the restoration of the Ka'ba as the sanc- 
tuary of the one, true God. It is against 
this background that the references to the 
futile salat of the unbelievers at the bayt 
(°, 8:35) and the call for Quraysh to wor- 
ship "the lord of this house" (q 106:3) are 

Issues involving the law discussed in con- 
nection with the qur'anic verses cited 
above include whether 'umra has the same 
obligatory status as hajj (q 2:158; 3:97), the 
nature of the compensation to be offered 
by the muhrim who has intentionally killed a 
wild animal (q 5:95), the precise point of 
the qibla (o 2:144) and the status of the 
tawaf or say between al-Safa and al-Marwa 

(a 2:158). 

A non-traditional perspective 
The unanimous traditional view is that the 
qur'anic passages discussed above all origi- 
nated with reference to the Ka'ba at 
Mecca and that the Meccan Ka'ba before 
Islam had the same central importance 
that it afterwards received in Islam. 
Qur'anic commentary reflects those two 
presuppositions (see exegesis of the 
qur'an: classical and medieval). The 
qur'anic text itself seems neither to sub- 
stantiate nor disprove them. It may be 
noted, however, that the expression al- 
masjid al-haram as the name of the place of 

worship in contention between the believ- 
ers and unbelievers is much more common 
and more prominent in the Qur'an than is 
al-ka 'ba, and the traditional identification 
of al-masjid al-haram as a pre-Islamic name 
for the area around the Meccan Ka'ba 
may be an attempt at harmonization. It is 
notable, too, that the sanctuary (bayt) asso- 
ciated in the text with Abraham is not 
explicitly identified there as al-ka'ba, apart 
from the reference in Q 5:97 to al-ka'ba al- 
bayt al-haram, which could incorporate a 
gloss. The identification of the bayt with 
the Meccan Ka'ba is mainly a product of 
the literary tradition rather than of the 
Qur'an itself. Muslim tradition itself sug- 
gests that there were other ka 'has besides 
the Meccan one and some evidence from 
outside Muslim tradition suggests a link 
between the word ka'ba and a stele or 
bethel connected with the worship of 
Dusares in Nabataean Petra (Ryckmans, 
Dhu '1-Shara; see geography). There are 
some grounds, therefore, for hesitation in 
face of the traditional understandings of 
the qur'anic passages. How far one is pre- 
pared to question them will largely depend 
on one's views about the origins of the 
qur'anic text and of the Muslim sanctuary 
at Mecca. 

Gerald R. Hawting 

Primary: al-Azraql, Abii 1-Walld Ahmad b. 
Muhammad, Akhbar Makka, ed. R. Malhas, 
Beirut 1969; al-FasI, Abu 1-Tayyib Muhammad 
b. Ahmad, Shifa' al-gharam bi-akhbdr al-balad al- 
haram, ed. 'A. Tadmurl, 2 vols., Beirut 1985; Ibn 
Ishaq, Sua; Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume; Ibn al-Kalbl, 
Kitdb al-Asnam, text and German translation in 
R. Klinke-Rosenberger, Das Gotzenbuch, Leipzig 
1941; Eng. trans. N.A. Faris, The book of idols, 
Princeton 1952; TabarT, Tafsir (on the verses 
referred to in the article); al-Tabarl, Muhibb al- 
Dln, al-Qira, ed. M. al-Saqqa, Cairo 1970*. 
Secondary: T. Fahd, Le pantheon de I Arable centrale 
a la veille de Vhegire, Paris 1968, esp. 203-36; 
M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Le pelerinage a la 



Mekke, Paris 1923; G.E. von Grunebaum, Muham- 
madan festivals, New York 1951, chapter 2; G.R. 
Hawting, The origins of the Muslim sanctuary 
at Mecca, in G.H.A. Juynboll (ed.), Studies in the 
first century of Islamic society, Carbondale and 
Edwardsville 1982; J.H. Mordtmann, Dusares bei 
Epiphanius, in ZDMG 29 (1876), 99-106; U. Rubin, 
The Ka'ba. Aspects of its ritual functions, in JSAI 
8 (1986), 97-131; G. Ryckmans, Dhu '1-Shara, in 
EI S , ii, 246-7; J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Hei- 
dentums, Berlin 1897*; A.J. Wensinck, The ideas of 
western Semites concerning the navel of the 
earth, in Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van 
Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, Afdeeling Letterkunde, 
Nieuwe Reeks, deel 17 (1916), no. I, repr. in Studies 
of A.J. Wensinck, New York 1978; A.J. Wensinck/ 
J. Jomier, Ka ( ba, in El 3 , iv, 317-22; A.J. Wensinck/ 
D. King, Kibla, in Ei\ v, 82-8. 

Kahili see soothsayers 

Kalam see word of god; theology and 
the qjjr'an; speech 

Keys see instruments; hidden and the 



Khadija bint al-Khuwaylid of the clan of 
Asad of the tribe of Quraysh (q.v.) was the 
Prophet's first wife, mother of all his chil- 
dren except one, and the first to believe in 
his mission. Inasmuch as she died three 
years before the emigration (q.v.; hijra) to 
Medina, and the revelations specifically 
addressed to the members of the Prophet's 
household (see family of the prophet; 
people of the house; revelation and 
inspiration; occasions of revelation) 
were vouchsafed in Medina (q.v.), Kha- 
dlja's name appears rarely in the exegetical 
literature (see exegesis of the chjr'an: 
classical and medieval). Her role in the 
genres of biographies of Muhammad (sua, 
see SIRA AND THE q_ur'an) and "stories of 
the prophets" (qisas al-anbiya\ see prophets 

and prophethood) works, as well as in 
popular piety, however, has been immense. 

Khadija was an aristocratic, wealthy 
Meccan merchant woman who in two pre- 
vious marriages had given birth to two sons 
and a daughter. As a widow, she obtained 
Muhammad's services as steward of her 
merchandise in a Syrian trading venture, 
during which a young boy of her house- 
hold named Maysara is said to have wit- 
nessed several miracles that foretold 
Muhammad's rise to prophethood. The 
venture was a commercial success and, 
impressed by Muhammad's good character 
and trustworthiness, Khadija offered him 
marriage. Traditional sources indicate that 
the marriage proposal was extended by 
Muhammad and his uncle Hamza b. 'Abd 
al-Muttalib (q.v.) to Khadija's father Khu- 
waylid b. Asad (Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume, 82-3) 
or it was her uncle l Amr b. Asad who mar- 
ried her to the Prophet (Ibn Sa'd, i, 132-3). 
Most traditions place Muhammad's age at 
that time at twenty-five and Khadija's at 
forty. She bore her husband at least five 
children: four daughters (Zaynab, Umm 
Kulthum, Fatima, Ruqayya) and one or 
possibly two sons (al-Qasim, 'Abdallah; 
who, however, may be the same, while 
al-Tahir and al-Tayyib are generally taken 
to be epithets of 'Abdallah; Ibn Ishaq- 
Guillaume, 82-3). Khadija's material, emo- 
tional, and spiritual support were crucial to 
the success of Muhammad's mission. The 
exegetical literature on the Quran gener- 
ally links 93:8, "did he not find you 
needy and enrich you" with their marriage 
(see poverty and the poor). Khadija 
reported Muhammad's first miraculous 
experiences and especially his call to 
prophethood to her Christian cousin 
Waraqa b. Nawfal who likened the event to 
Moses' (q.v.) receiving of the law (Ibn 
Ishaq-Guillaume, 83, 107; see torah; 
commandments; there is also speculation 


that this Waraqa may have furnished 
Muhammad with details of Christian 
belief; cf. Sprenger, Leben, i, 124-34; see 
informants; christians and Chris- 
tianity). According to many traditions 
(see hadith AND THE ojjr'an), she was the 
first to believe in God, his apostle (see 
messenger), and the truth of the message, 
meaning that she was the Prophet's first 
follower and, after Muhammad himself, 
the second Muslim. According to others 
his cousin 'All b. Abi Talib (q.v.) was the 
second Muslim and Khadija the third (see 
faith; belief and unbelief; companions 
of THE prophet). During her lifetime, she 
remained the Prophet's only wife (see 
wives of the prophet; marriage and 
divorce) and his mainstay in the battles 
against his Meccan enemies (Ibn Ishaq- 
Guillaume, 111-14; see opposition to 

Khadlja's rank among God's chosen 
women, indeed her cosmological impor- 
tance, is established in the exegetical litera- 
ture on Q_ 66:11-2 and 3:42 (see WOMEN AND 
THE qjur'an). In the context of Q_ 66:11-2, 
she is placed in association with Pharaoh's 
(q.v.) wife (Asya) and Mary (q.v.) the daugh- 
ter of Tmran (q.v.; the mother of Jesus, 
q.v.), both examples to those who believe, 
because of her great service to the 
Prophet's mission. Regarding Q_ 3:42, the 
angels' words to Mary that God had 
chosen her above the women of the 
worlds, Khadlja's name appears promi- 
nently in the exegetical debate on Mary's 
ranking both among the qur'anic women 
figures and also in relation to three selected 
elite women of the Prophet's household, 
i.e. Khadija herself, Muhammad's later 
wife 'A'isha (see 'a'isha bint abi bakr), 
and his and Khadlja's daughter Fatima 
(q.v.). Here, the larger number of tradi- 
tions recorded in exegetical (tafsir) and qisas 
al-anbiya' literature establish on the author- 

ity of the Prophet that Mary and Fatima, 
Khadija and Asya are the best women of 
the world and the ruling females in heaven 
(see heaven AND sky). While the traditions 
on A'isha's inclusion in this group are 
fewer in number, many hagiographic 
accounts affirm that Mary and Asya, 
Khadija and A'isha will all be Muham- 
mad's consorts in paradise (q.v.), where 
Khadlja's heavenly mansion is located 
between the houses of Mary and Asya 
(Tabari, Tafsir, vi, 393-400; Razi, Tafsir, viii, 
45-6; Baydawl, Anwar, i, 155; Ibn Kathlr, 
Qisas, ii, 375-83.) 

Barbara Freyer St 


Primary: Bay^SLwT, Anwar; Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume; 
Ibn Kathlr, Qisas at-anbiya\ Cairo 1968; Ibn Sa'd, 
Tabaqat, Beirut 1957-8, i, 131-4, 156-7; viii, 14-9; 
Razi, Tafsir, ed. M. Muhyll-Dm; Tabarl, Tafsir, 
ed. Shakir. 

Secondary: Syed A. A. Razwy, Khadija-tut-Kubra, 
Elmhurst 1990; A. Sprenger, Das Leben und die 
Lehre des Mohammad, 3 vols., Berlin 1869 s , h 81, 
124-34 ( on Waraqa b. Nawfal); B. Freyer 
Stowasser, Women in the Quran, traditions, and 
interpretation, New York 1994 (index); W.M. Watt, 
Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford 1953; id., Muhammad 
at Medina, Oxford 1956 (indices). 


Islamic tradition identifies as al-Khadir (or 
Khidr), an otherwise unnamed "servant 
(q.v.) of God" who appears in Surat al- 
Kahf ("The Cave"; Q_ 18:60-82), in connec- 
tion with Moses' (q.v.) quest for the "con- 
fluence of the two seas" (see barrier; 
nature as signs). Interpretations run a 
wide gamut. Al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/ 
1 144; Kashshaf ii, 703) asserts that Khidr 
lived from the time of Dhu 1-Qarnayn 
(see Alexander) to that of Moses; Sayyid 
Qiitb (d. 1966; Zflal, iv, 2276-82) sets that 
tradition aside, calling him only "the 



righteous servant." Moses and an un- 
named companion (traditionally, Joshua 
son of Nun) set out carrying a fish for food; 
mysteriously coming to life, the fish escapes 
into the sea. According to a hadith cited by 
many exegetes (e.g. Ibn al-jawzl, %ad, v, 
iig; see hadith and the qur'an) to 
explain the context of the journey, Moses 
rises to address the Children of Israel (q.v.) 
and someone asks him who is the most 
learned among them. When Moses 
answers that he himself is, God reveals that 
one yet more learned awaits Moses at the 
confluence of the two seas. Al-Tabari (d. 
310/923; Tafsir, viii, 251) adds that Khidr is 
also the most beloved and most firmly 

The qur'anic account, enhanced with 
certain exegetical details, continues as fol- 
lows: God then tells Moses that he will 
meet this most learned servant at the place 
where his fish escapes. But Joshua fails to 
tell Moses that he has lost the fish so the 
two must retrace their steps to the spot 
where Khidr awaits. Moses asks Khidr to 
teach him what he knows, but Khidr warns 
that Moses will not have the patience to 
bear with him. Moses insists he will be a 
good student, agreeing not to question 
Khidr's actions. The travelers embark on 
a ship, which Khidr proceeds to scuttle 
(see ships). Moses inquires how he could 
do such a thing, and Khidr warns the 
Prophet. Later as they walk along the 
shore, Khidr spots some boys playing and 
kills one of them summarily. Moses again 
confronts Khidr. Further along they come 
to a town whose inhabitants refuse to feed 
the hungry travelers. Nevertheless, Khidr 
repairs a portion of a wall on the point of 
collapsing. Again Moses takes exception, 
and that is the last straw: Khidr decides to 
explain his actions, but from then on 
Moses is on his own. Khidr had scuttled 
the boat to prevent a wicked king from 
commandeering it for evil purposes; he 

had killed the boy lest the child grieve his 
good parents by a wayward life; and he 
had rebuilt the wall so that the treasure 
that lay beneath would be safe until the 
two orphaned sons of the wall's owner 
could reach their majority and thus claim 
their inheritance (see orphans; guardian- 
ship; inheritance). 

Exegetes discuss such questions as the 
origin of the guide's name, the identity of 
the seas, the nature of Khidr's learning, 
and his spiritual status. He got the name 
Khidr, "green," because, according to a 
hadith cited by several exegetes (e.g. Qur- 
(ubi, Jami', xi, 12; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, iii, 
105), whenever he prayed, everything 
around him waxed verdant. Exegetes gen- 
erally agree that Khidr's divinely infused 
knowledge was esoteric, whereas that of 
Moses was more exoteric (e.g. Abu Hay- 
yan, Bahr, vi, 139; see knowledge and 
learning). Al-Tabari (Tafsir, viii, 251) 
among others suggests the two seas were 
the Persian in the east and the Greek in 
the west (see geography). But of equal 
importance is the metaphorical view that 
Moses and Khidr were themselves the two 
"seas" since they both possessed oceans of 
knowledge, albeit of different kinds (Abu 
Hayyan, Bahr, vi, 136; Zamakhshari, Kash- 
shaf ii, 703; see metaphor). Many inter- 
preters call Khidr a prophet, arguing that 
only prophetic revelation (wahy) could 
account for his bizarre actions and that a 
ranking prophet like Moses would surely 
follow only a figure of greater stature (see 
prophets and prophethood; revela- 
tion and inspiration). Various exegetes 
gloss "mercy" (q.v.; p_ 18:65) as wahy or 
nubuwwa (Zamakhshari, Kashshaf ii, 705; 
Nasafl, Tafsir, iii, 34). Ibn al-Axabl (d. 543/ 
1148; Ahkarn, iii, 241) notes that the condi- 
tions Khidr imposed on Moses are under- 
standable in that all Muslims must accept 
certain conditions in following the prophets. 
Muhyl al-Dln b. al-Arabi (d. 638/1240; 



Fusus, 202-5) parallels Khidr's actions with 
events in Moses' life: the scuttling of the 
ship with the infant Moses' rescue from the 
Nile, Khidr's murder of the boy with 
Moses' killing the Copt, and Khidr's not 
asking recompense for rebuilding the 
crumbling wall with Moses' drawing water 
at Midian (q.v.) without remuneration. 

Khidr also appears in the various major 
versions of the "stories of the prophets" 
(qisas al-anbiya') genre. These accounts have 
a sort of "midrashic" quality, spinning a 
narrative to fill in the gaps in the scriptural 
text (Kisa'l), sometimes speculating on such 
details as the precise location of events and 
identities of individuals in the stories 
(Tha'labl). An extra-qur'anic aspect of the 
Khidr legend is the story of his search for 
the water (q.v.) of life (q.v), so that Khidr 
comes to share the immortality of Jesus 
(q.v.), Idrls (q.v.) and Ilyas (see Elijah). 
Khidr's arrival at the spring (see springs 
and fountains) is naturally associated with 
his power to affect the spiritual "greening" 
of humankind. Ibn Kathlr (d. 774/1373; 
Qisas, 342) intertwines Khidr's story with 
that of Ilyas and calls the two "brothers" 

The early exegete Muqatil b. Sulayman 
(d. 150/767) explains Khidr's link with Ilyas 
etymologically. As the one person with 
greater knowledge than Moses, Khidr's 
learning was "expansive, all inclusive," 
from wasa'a, "to be wide," which Muqatil 
claims is from the same root (see Arabic 
language) as the name Ilyas. Muqatil has 
Moses find Khidr dressed in wool, where- 
upon Khidr recognizes Moses as prophet 
of Israel (q.v.). According to Muqatil, 
Khidr's knowledge exceeds that of Moses 
because God has given diverse gifts to vari- 
ous prophets — not, as others have said, 
because Khidr was a saint and therefore 
superior to a prophet in esoteric knowledge 
(Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 592-9). An editor later 
attached a hadlth to Muqatil's commen- 

tary, according to which Khidr is a wall 
(saint) whose knowledge comes through 
virtue (see sufism AND THE qur'an). Moses 
asks Khidr how he came to be gifted with 
immortality (see DEATH and the dead; 
eternity), endowed with the ability to 
read hearts (see heart) and see with God's 
eye (see anthropomorphism). Khidr 
responds that it is because he has obeyed 
God perfectly and neither fears nor hopes 
in any but God (Nwyia, Exegese, 88-90; 
see fear; obedience; hope). Al-Sarraj 
(d. 378/988; Luma', 422-4) corrects the 
mistaken notion that wilaya (sainthood) is 
superior to risala (being a messenger of 
God), a misinterpretation of o_ 18:64 f. 
Moses' illumination far outstrips any that 
Khidr could have sustained. 

Khidr's ongoing spiritual function be- 
comes an important issue for certain Sufi 
orders in particular, who regarded Khidr 
as an initiating shaykh. Muhyi al-Dln b. 
al-'Arabl says he first met Khidr in Seville 
and received the Sufi patched frock (khirqa) 
from him and calls him the fourth pillar 
along with Jesus, Idrls, and Ilyas in the 
celestial hierarchy of initiation (Addas, Red 
sulphur, 62-5, 1 16-7, 144-5). Muhammad 
b. 'Abdallah b. al-'Arabl (d. 543/1148) 
observes that "anyone who wants to know 
without doubt that power and aid belong 
only to God must sail the sea," taking the 
ship Khidr scuttled as a symbol of spiritual 
poverty (Ahkam, iii, 242; see poverty and 
the poor). Jalal al-Dln al-Rumi (d. 672/ 
1273; Divan, poems 2521:10, 408:1-2) takes 
the metaphor further, identifying the ship 
as the body of the Sufi that must be broken 
and purified by Khidr's love. Finally, Abu 
Hayyan (d. 745/1344; Bahr, vi, 139) suggests 
the purpose of the whole story is guidance 
and incentive to travel on the search for 
knowledge (see journey), and instruction 
on the etiquette of the quest. 

John Renard 


Primary: Abii Hayyan, Bahr, Beirut 1993, vi, 
133-48; Ibn al-'Arabl, Ahkdm, iii, 236-42; Ibn 
al-'Arabl, Muhyl al-Dln, The bezels of wisdom, 
trans. R.WJ. Austin, New York 1980, 256-60 
(trans, of Fusils al-hikam); id., Fusus al-hikam, ed. 

A. 'Afifi, Cairo 1946, 202-13, 302-5 ('Afifl's com- 
mentary); Ibn al-JawzT, /(ad, Beirut 1994, v, 
119-35; ^ 3n KathTr, Qisas al-anbiyd\ Beirut 1997, 
336-50; id., TafsTr, Beirut 1996, iii, 96-105; Jalal 
al-Dln RumT, Kulliyat-i dwdn-i shams, ed. B. Furu- 
zanfar, Tehran 1970; Kisa'I, Qisas, 230-3; id., 
The tales of the prophets of al-R'isa'i, trans. W.M. 
Thackston, Boston 1978, 247-50; Muqatil, TafsTr; 
Nasafi, TafsTr, Beirut 1996, iii, 33-9; Nizam 
al-Dln Awliya', Morals for the heart, trans. 

B. Lawrence, Mahwah, NJ 1992; QurtubT, Jdmi\ 
21 vols., Beirut 1996 5 , xi, 8-31; Qiitb, £ildl, iv, 
2276-82; al-Sarraj, Abu Nasr 'Abdallah b. 'All, 
Kitdb al-Luma'; ed. R.A. Nicholson, London 1963; 
TabarT, Tafsir, 12 vols., Beirut 1992, viii, 251-70; 
Tha'labi, Qisas, 192-204; Zamakhsharl, Kashshaf, 
ii, 702-14. 

Secondary: C. Addas, Quest for the red sulphur, 
Cambridge 1993; I. Friedlaender, Die Chadir- 
legende and der Alexanderroman, Leipzig 1913; 
Nwyia, Exegese; J. Renard, All the king's falcons. 
Rumi on prophets and revelation, New York 1994; 
A.J. Wensinck, al-Khadir, in El', iv, 902-5 (ei', 
iv, 861-5). 



The strongest opposition party in early 
Islam, their name (Ar. khariji, pi. khawdrij) 
is derived from the Arabic triliteral root 
kh-r-j, which has as its basic meaning "to go 
out," "to take the field against someone" 
and "to rise in revolt" (TabarT, Ta'nkh, ii, 
32; trans. Morony, 37; see fighting; 
jihad). In the case in point, it means "to 
secede from the community." Although 
forms of kh-r-j appear numerous times in 
the Qur'an with varied meanings, the 
group in question took its name from the 
usage in o_ 9:46, where the root kh-r-j, 
denoting "to go out to combat," is opposed 
to the verb qa'ada, which denotes people 
who held back from the war (q.v.; see 

expeditions and battles). The earliest 
Kharijis were those who withdrew from 
All b. Abi Talib's (q.v.) army when he 
agreed to the arbitration (q.v.) at the battle 
of Siffln in 37/657 (see politics and the 
qjjr'an). Another name given to these 
first Kharijis is al-Shurat (lit. "the ven- 
dors") — meaning those who have sold 
their soul for the cause of God. This 
appears to have been the name they 
themselves used, and it has also been 
extended to their descendants (cf. Levi 
Delia Vida, Kharidjites; Higgins, Qur'anic 

Early traditions state that a breeding- 
ground for the Kharijis could be found 
among the Quran readers (see reciters 
of THE qur'an), who displayed extreme 
piety (q.v.) and asceticism (q.v). The earli- 
est Kharijis, just like the Arabs (q.v.) of 
Kufa and Basra, were all bedouins (see 
bedouin), who had migrated to the garri- 
son cities (see city). In this respect there is 
little distinguishing information to provide 
other than that they were much less con- 
cerned with the system of genealogy based 
on kinship (q.v.). As a consequence of this 
stance, their doctrines had enormous ap- 
peal for minority groups within the newly 
emerging Islamic community (see heresy; 

The earliest of 'All's opponents were 
called Harurls, from Hartira 1 , the place in 
which some twelve thousand men had 
gathered, those who, in protest against the 
arbitration, had seceded as 'All entered 
Kufa in Rabl' I 37/Aug.-Sept. 658, after 
the conclusion of the arbitration agree- 
ment. Also among them were many who 
had initially accepted the arbitration but 
now acknowledged their mistake and no 
longer recognized 'All as their leader. 
Their oath of allegiance was to God on the 
basis of "ordering what is good and pro- 
hibiting what is reprehensible" (on this 
concept, see M. Cook, Commanding right; see 
also good and evil; lawful and unlaw- 



ful; ethics and the q_ur an; virtues 
and vices, commanding and forbid- 
DING). The Haruris were initially secession- 
ists, not rebels. They wished to secede from 
the community to protect their principles. 
They were also called Muhakkima from 
their motto "No judgment (q.v.) but God's" 
(la hukma ilia li-llah). They accused those 
who supported the arbitration of having 
acted contemptibly toward God by ap- 
pointing human arbitrators. People who 
shouted "la hukma ilia li-llah" at the battle of 
Siffln most likely meant that 'Uthman (q.v.) 
had broken God's law as revealed in the 
Qur'an (see law and the qur'an) and 
was therefore worthy of death, and not 
that the question between 'All and 
Mu'awiya should be left to the "arbitra- 
ment of war" (Watt, Kharijite thought, 
217-8). They also held that Mu'awiya was a 
rebel and that according to o_ 49:9, rebels 
are outlaws who should be fought until 
they repent (see rebellion; repentance 
and penance). Arbitration was thus a mis- 
take because no one had the right to substi- 
tute a human decision for God's clear 
pronouncement (Barradi, Jawahir, 120). 

The rupture among 'All's followers 
proved serious since it brought a wider 
dogmatic schism to the fore. The Kharijls 
objected to the concept of personal alli- 
ance to the imam (q.v.). In their view, alle- 
giance should be bound not to a particular 
person (see community and society in 
the qur'an), but to the Qur'an and the 
surma (q.v.) of the Prophet, Abu Bakr (q.v.) 
and 'Umar (q.v). They denied that the 
right to the imamate should be based on 
close kinship with Muhammad (see shI'ism 
and the qur'an), for that was irrelevant in 
their eyes. These differences found military 
expression when the Kharijls from Kufa 
and Basra assembled in Nahrawan. After 
calling for a resumption of the war with 
Mu'awiya, who had been acknowledged 
by some as caliph (q.v.) before the end of 
Dhu 1-Qa'da 37/April-May 658 (Hinds, 

Mu'awiya, 265), All invited them to join 
him and to fight their common enemy. 
Faced with their refusal, 'All decided to 
deal with it before carrying out his cam- 
paign to Syria (q.v). The Kharijls fought 
desperately but they were outnumbered by 
'All's followers and the battle turned into a 
one-sided massacre. The battle of Nahra- 
wan (g Safar 38/17 July 658) set the seal 
on the division between Shl'a (q.v.) and 
Kharijls, and made the Kharijls' split with 
the community irreparable. 

Khariji revolts 
During the Umayyad period, several Kha- 
riji revolts broke out in various Muslim 
lands, causing the caliphate to suffer mate- 
rial damage as well as a blow to its pride. 
Large sections of territory were removed 
from its administration. The Azariqa, one 
of the main branches of the Kharijls, 
threatened Basra, while other Khariji 
groups who emerged from the region of 
Mawsil (i.e. the high Tigris country be- 
tween Mardin and Nislbin) endangered 
Kufa (cf. Levi Delia Vida, Kharidjites, 
1075-6). The chief persecutors of the 
Kharijls were the governors of Iraq, Ziyad 
b. Abihi (d. 53/673) and his son 'Ubayd 
Allah, who became governor there in the 
year 55/674. They proceeded against the 
Kharijls with harsh measures and killed 
and imprisoned many of them. As the 
Umayyad caliphate began to collapse, the 
Kharijls turned into a revolutionary move- 
ment. The small numbers of troops, which 
had previously characterized the Khariji 
armies, swelled to powerful masses. During 
this late Umayyad period, the revolts of 
the Ibadls, a moderate branch of the 
Kharijls (who spread to the Maghrib, the 
Hadramawt and 'Uman) constituted a 
greater menace to the caliphate than did 
the Azariqi uprisings (cf. Lewicki, al- 
Ibadiyya, 650). After occupying the 
Hadramawt and San'a', the capital of 
southern Arabia, in 129/746-47, the Ibadi 



army, under the command of Abu Hamza, 
took Mecca (q.v.) and Medina (q.v.). Abu 
Hamza was a skilled soldier, but also a 
scholar and a preacher who gave sermons 
from the Prophet's pulpit (see mosque) that 
have been preserved in the Arabic chroni- 
cles (Darjlnl, Tabaqat, ii, 266-72). The 
Ibadls were defeated and, for the most 
part, massacred in the middle of Jumada I 
130/January 748. The Umayyad army re- 
conquered Medina and then Mecca but 
were forced to conclude a peace treaty with 
the Ibadls of the Hadramawt. 

The Khariji revolts continued after the 
ascension of the 'Abbasids. The Ibadls and 
the Sufrites, another moderate branch of 
Kharijism, succeeded in establishing their 
rule in the Maghrib. Again in 'Uman, the 
Ibadls had some success in a revolt about 
132/750. Towards the second half of the 
second/eighth century they rose up again 
and recommenced their activities in the 
region creating an imamate, which contin- 
ued to exist almost without interruption for 
over 1200 years. There were revolts in 
other regions that were successful for some 
years and then died down. In various dis- 
tricts around Mawsil, in northern Iraq, 
sixteen revolts have been recorded in the 
years between the middle of the second/ 
eighth and the middle of the fourth/tenth 
century; Sijistan and southern Khurasan 
also witnessed Khariji revolts. 

Khariji sects 
The weakness of the Khariji movement lay 
in its incapacity to preserve both religious 
and political unity. A number of schisms 
(iftiraq) resulting from dogmatic disputes as 
well as from political crises culminated in 
the formation of several theological and 
political subdivisions (jirqa). Some of the 
Kharijis adopted political quietism and 
moderation, while others took to activism 
and extremism. The extremists followed 

Nan 1 b. al-Azraq or Hanzala b. Bayhas. 
The Azariqa (who met a violent end in 
Tabarlstan in 78-9/698-9) upheld the 
isti'rad (the indiscriminate killing of the 
non-Khariji Muslims, including their chil- 
dren), submitted new recruits to a severe 
inquisition, disregarded the practice of the 
dissimulation (q.v.; taqiyya) of one's real 
belief, considered unbelief a grave sin and 
insisted on the eternal punishment for the 
grave sinner (see belief and unbelief; 
Bayhasiyya were as fierce as the Azariqa in 
that they approved of the killing of non- 
Khariji Muslims and the taking of their 
goods (see booty). The followers of Najda 
b. Amir represented a milder tendency. 
The Najadat permitted dissimulation 
(taqiyya) and quietism, as they did not 
expect everyone to join with them in the 
fight against the unbelievers. Another 
branch of the Kharijis were the 'Ajarida, 
who stem from Abd al-Karlm b. 'Ajar- 
rad. They insisted on the supremacy of 
divine law and on the upright conduct of 

The most moderate branch of the Khari- 
jis — and today the only survivors — were 
the Ibadls. They appeared in Basra in 65/ 
684-5, wnen 'Abdallah b. Ibad broke away 
from the Khariji extremists over which 
attitude was to be adopted towards other 
Muslims and joined a group of quietists 
who had gathered around Abu Bilal 
Mirdas b. Udayya al-Tamiml. During the 
first half of the second/eighth century, 
Ibadism began to undergo a profound 
change: from being part of the Khariji 
sect, it became an autonomous movement 
with a defined membership, doctrine and 
organized missionary activities. At present, 
Ibadls form the main part of the popula- 
tion in the oases of Mzab in Algeria, of 
Zawara and Jebel Naffusa in Tripolitania, 
on the island of Jerba in Tunisia and in 



'Uman, while small groups are also found 
on the island of Zanzibar. Another mod- 
erate branch of the KharijTs were the 
Sufriyya, whose teachings spread among 
the remote Berber tribes of the western 

KharijT doctrine 

The Kharijis made important contribu- 
tions to Islamic thought, and to the forma- 
tion of Islamic culture. A considerable 
amount of historical and theological mate- 
rial has been preserved by the Ibadis (for a 
discussion of Ibadi exegesis of the Quran, 
see Gilliot, Le commentaire coranique de 
Hud b. Muhakkam), but apart from this 
Ibadi material, the only source for the 
KharijT thought is the Sunn! historical and 
heresiographical tradition. The religion of 
the Kharijls had as its aim paradise (q.v.). 
They did not think of victory (q.v.) on 
earth (q.v.). They wished to save their souls 
(see soul) by fighting the impious with a 
total lack of consideration for themselves 
and others (see salvation). The core of 
the theological teaching of the Kharijis 
was the conception of a righteous God 
who demands righteousness from his sub- 
jects (see justice AND injustice). Indeed, 
the earliest Kharijite propositions at- 
tempted to place the believer in a direct 
relationship to God. Kharijism attached 
great importance to religious principles 
that stressed the responsibility of the indi- 
vidual, such as the obligation of "promot- 
ing good and preventing evil" and the 
conception of the relationship between 
works and faith (q.v.). Anyone who com- 
mitted a capital sin, failed to obey the 
divine law (see obedience) or introduced 
innovations (see innovation) was an infi- 
del and was to be combated as long as he 
remained dissident. Moreover, if there 
were no repentance, the transgressor 
would be condemned to eternal punish- 

ment in hell (see reward and punish- 
ment; hell and hellfire). This doctrine 
was used to support the KharijT view that 
the killers of 'Uthman could be justified in 
their act, and, for the Azariqa, it became 
the theological basis for their action. 

The obvious corollary of the doctrine of 
human responsibility was the doctrine of 
divine decree [qadar, see freedom and 
predestination). Al-Ash'arl (d. 324/ 
935-6; Maqdldt, 93, 96, 104, 116) mentions 
some KharijT groups that agreed with the 
Mu'tazila (see mu'tazilis) in affirming 
human free will, but the general attitude 
of the Kharijls supported the doctrine of 
predestination. The debate on qadar 
emerged in the Ibadi community during 
the imamate of Abu 'Ubayda (first half of 
the second/eighth century), who was con- 
scious of the danger to the community of 
carrying rational argument and disputa- 
tion too far (see debate and disputa- 
tion). He fiercely opposed Abdallah b. 
Yazid al-Fazari for his rigidly rational rea- 
soning and expelled H amza al-Kufi (cf. 
van Ess, TG, ii, 203-4) and Atiyya (cf. van 
Ess, TG, iv, 204), suspected to be followers 
of Ghaylan al-Dimashql (cf. van Ess, TG, 
i, 73-5). According to Abu 'Ubayda, God is 
all-powerful and all-knowing (see god and 
his attributes); he knows people's acts 
but he does not determine them. Thus 
the individual is responsible for his or her 
actions and will be judged for them (Dar- 
jini, Tabaqdt, ii, 233; Shammakhl, Siyar, 
84-5; see last judgment; record of 
human actions). The KharijT theological 
doctrine shared a number of features with 
Mu'tazill theology as a result of a parallel 
development, since the center of Ibadism 
was still Basra at the time when the found- 
ers of Mu'tazilism were active there 
(Moreno, Note, 312-3). Kharijls and Mu'ta- 
zilTs used the same arguments, often bor- 
rowed from each other, to substantiate 



their doctrines. In general, the dogma of 
the Kharijls resembled certain main points 
made by the Mu'tazilTs, as in the case of 
the doctrine of anti-anthropomorphism 
(see anthropomorphism) and the theory 
of the createdness of the Qur'an (q.v.). 
This latter doctrine was well established 
among the early Ibadls in the Maghrib, as 
shown by a treatise in which the Rustamid 
imam Abu al-Yaqzan (r. 241-81/855-94) 
quotes early Ibadl scholars (Gremonesi, 
Un antico documento, 148 f.) on the matter. In 
'Uman, the doctrine was first introduced 
only at the beginning of the third/ninth 
century, though it was opposed until the 
sixth/twelfth century. 

The question of the imamate was central 
for the Kharijl movement, together with 
the related question of membership in the 
community, which depended on the accep- 
tance of its specific doctrines. It was on this 
latter question that the movement split into 
various sects over minor differences. The 
Kharijls were not anarchists: they upheld 
the necessity of an imam, but rejected 
imams such as 'Uthman, 'All and Mu'a- 
wiya, insisting upon the personal qualities 
of the imam and his duty to enjoin good 
and forbid evil. They held that the limita- 
tion of the imamate to the Quraysh (q.v.) 
was not valid: the most meritorious Mus- 
lim should be elected whatever his ethnic 
origins might be. In other words, for the 
Kharijls, personal merits overruled consid- 
erations of descent. In their view, leader- 
ship stems from personal excellence, and 
the confidence that the community placed 
in its imam constitutes his authority (q.v.). 
When an imam commits major sins, his 
followers should not immediately dissociate 
themselves from him (al-bard'a 'anhu), but 
call him to formal repentance (cf. Rubi- 
nacci, Bara'a, 1027-8). If he repents, and 
does not continue in his errors, then he 
retains his imamate; if he does not, then it 

is the duty of his followers to dissociate 
themselves from him and, if necessary, fight 
him. The Kharijls supported the principle 
that any Muslim could be elevated to the 
supreme dignity of the imamate, even if he 
were "an Abyssinian slave whose nose has 
been cut off" (ShahrastanI, Milal, 87; see 
Ibadl sources state that the imam must be 
male, an adult in full possession of his fac- 
ulties and so on (see maturity; kings and 
rulers), but they do not regard a slave as 
eligible for the caliphate (Wilkinson, Ibadi 
Imama, 538). The formulation of "even an 
Abyssinian slave" causes misunderstanding. 
It actually means that the Kharijls held any 
qualified Muslim, even one of slavish ori- 
gin, eligible to the imamate — provided 
that he was of irreproachable character. 
Originally this "black slave" tradition was 
not a Kharijl statement nor was it con- 
cerned with the qualification of the 
imamate. It expressed Sunni quietism, 
which maintained that rulers must be 
obeyed however illegitimate they may be 
(Crone, 'Even an Ethiopian slave,' 60-1). 
It should be added that the Ibadls were 
also eminent jurists (see traditional 
disciplines of qur'anic study). The 
Ibadl school is one of the oldest surviving 
schools of law. Its foundation was attrib- 
uted to Jabir b. Zayd (d. ca. 100/718-9). 
The first jurists of the movement were 
trained at his "circle" (halqa): Abu Nuh 
Salih al-Dahhan, Hayyim al-A'raj, 
Dumam b. al-Sa'ib, Ja'far b. al-Sammak, 
and Abu 'Ubayda al-Tamiml propagated 
the doctrine learnt from Jabir in secret 
meetings (majalis), at which the members of 
the sect discussed questions of law and 
dogma. The first Ibadls lived in places 
where Islamic law began to develop, 
namely in Basra and Kufa, but also in the 
Hijaz, in close contact with the learned 
experts of the time with whom they 


exchanged opinions and teachings. Al- 
Hasan al-Basrl (d. 110/728) and Ibn 'Abbas 
(d. 68/686-8) were teachers as well as per- 
sonal friends of Jabir, and the first Ibadis 
recognized the authority of the Sunn! tra- 
ditionists (see hadith and the qur an) 
who were among Jabir's pupils: Qatada 
b. Diama, c Amr b. Harim, c Amr b. Dinar, 
Tamim b. Huways, and 'Umara b. Hayyan. 

Some scholars have argued that the 
Ibadis derived their law from the orthodox 
schools, introducing only such superficial 
modifications as were required by their 
own political and dogmatic tenets 
(Schacht, Origins, 260 f). Recent studies on 
the Ibadl madhhab show, however, that from 
the beginning the Ibadls took a line de- 
tached from Sunn! schools and thus con- 
tributed to the general development of 
Islamic jurisprudence (Ennami, Studies in 
Ibadism, chap, iv; Wilkinson, The early 
development, 125-44; Francesca., The 
formation; id., Teoria e practica, esp. 
chaps. 1-3). 

Ersilia Francesca 


Primary: al-Aslvarl, Abu 1-Hasan, Allb. Ismail, 
Maqalat al-islamiyyin, ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul 1929; 
Baghdad!, Farq, Cairo 1328/1910; Baladhurl, 
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(1961), 215-32; J. Wellhausen, Die religiospolitischen 
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(!976) 5 535-5 1 - 



Kifl, Dhu al- see dhu l-kifl; ezekiel; 


Kindness see mercy 

King, Kingdom see kings and rulers 

Kings and Rulers 

Royal male sovereigns and other political 
leaders. The Arabic term malik, "king," 
appears thirteen times in the Qur'an (its 
plural form muluk appears twice), and is 
derived from the root m-l-k, which con- 
notes possession (q.v.), having power or 
dominion over someone or something (see 
power and impotence), or capacity, the 
ability to obtain something. 

Other qur'anic terms relevant to this sub- 
ject include mulk, "dominion, power or 
kingdom," and malakut, "dominion or king- 
dom." The former, which is attested many 
times in the Qur'an, may be associated 
either with God or with human beings, 
while the latter, which appears only four 
times, is used exclusively in divine contexts, 
as in Q_ 6:75 when God shows Abraham 
(q.v.) "the kingdom of the heavens and the 
earth" {malakuta l-samawati wa-l-ard, see 
heaven and sky; earth) or q 36:83: 
"Glory be to him in whose hand is domin- 
ion (malakut) over all things." The term 
khalifa (derived from the root kh-l-f, which 
connotes succession or deputyship; see 
caliph), is attested twice in the Qur'an, 
and in its application to David (q.v.) in 
C3 38:26, this term, too, strongly suggests 
rulership (Lewis, Political language, 44; 
see also Paret, Signification coranique; 
al-Qadi, The term "khalifa"). The term 
imam (q.v.; pi. a'imma), a title which, like 
khalifa, was greatly preferred by many Mus- 
lim political thinkers to malik in the early 
centuries of the Islamic period, also 
appears in the Qur'an, where it connotes 
leadership, and has sometimes been inter- 
preted in a political sense (see politics 
and the qjjr'an; also, although attested in 
the Qur'an, the term sultan never appears 


there in the sense of governmental power, 
a sense that was to become prevalent in 
later centuries). 

Although the words malik and mulk are 
used in the Qur'an in both human and 
divine contexts, the scripture and its tradi- 
tional interpreters (see exegesis of the 
qur'an: classigal and medieval) distin- 
guish between true, eternal sovereignty 
(q.v.), that of God, and the temporal power 
that God grants briefly to whom he wishes 
(see eternity). Commentators on the 
verse Q 3-26, where God is addressed as 
"the possessor of sovereignty, [you] who 
give sovereignty to whom you wish, and 
take sovereignty away from whom you 
wish, and exalt whom you wish and hum- 
ble whom you wish" (malika l-mulki tu'ti 
l-mulka man tasha'u wa-tanzi'u l-mulka mimman 
tasha'u wa-tu'izzu rnan tasha'u wa-tudhillu man 
tasha'), draw a specific contrast between 
divine and human sovereignty. For al- 
Tabari (d. 310/923), the verse emphasizes 
God's total control over the disposition of 
temporal power. "All that is in your hands 
and at your behest; no one in your creation 
(q.v.) can do anything about it," al-Tabari 
writes (Tafsir, vi, 301). As an illustration of 
God's ability to elevate and depose kings in 
ways that human beings would never con- 
sider possible, al-Tabari (followed by sev- 
eral later commentators) cites the hadlth 
according to which Muhammad purport- 
edly promised his people that they would 
eventually gain sovereignty over the Per- 
sian and Byzantine empires (Tabarl, Tafsir, 
vi, 299-301; see also RazI, Tafsir, viii, 4; see 
byzantines; hadith and the qjjr'an). 

q_ 3:26 is significant in Mu'tazill theology, 
since some Mu'tazills (q.v.), as a conse- 
quence of their emphasis on divine justice 
(see justige AND injustige), rejected the 
idea that God could bestow kingship on an 
unbeliever (see belief and unbelief; for a 
discussion of this issue, see Ttisi, Tibyan, ii, 

430-1; Zamakhsharl, Kashshaf, i, 350; and 
further Mawardi, Nukat, i, 381-2). While 
al-Tabari gives precedence to interpreta- 
tions of Q_ 3:26 that understand the verse as 
referring to temporal power, he and later 
commentators also record alternative opin- 
ions, including the view according to which 
mulk should be understood here in the 
sense of prophethood (Tabarl, Tafsir, vi, 
300; TusI, Tibyan, ii, 429; see prophets 
and prophethood). In his treatment of 
this view, Fakhr al-Din al-RazT (d. 606/ 
1210) explains: "Prophethood is the highest 
rank of sovereignty, because the scholars 
(see scholar; knowledge and learn- 
ing) have a great deal of command over 
the interior aspects of people, and tyrants 
(see oppression) have command over the 
external aspects of people, whereas the 
commands of prophets are effective on the 
interior and exterior aspects" (RazI, Tafsir, 
viii, 5; see also authority and obedience 
for discussion of another verse with theo- 
logical overtones that had ramifications 
on later Islamic political history, namely 
4:59, in which the believers are in- 
structed to obey God, the messenger [q.v.] 
and "those of you who are in authority full 
l-amr minkum]"). 

In reference to God, the term malik is 
invested with sacrality: in Q 20:114, God is 
called "the true king" (al-maliku l-haqq; see 
also Q 25:26, al-mulku yawma'idhin al-haqq) 
and he is twice described as "the holy 
king" (al-maliku l-quddus; the latter term is 
generally interpreted as meaning "pure, 
devoid of any impurity or deficiency"; see 
Baydawl, Anwar, ii, 326, ad Q 59:23 and 
TusI, Tibyan, x, 3-4, ad Q_ 62:1). In Q 114:2, 
God is "the king of humankind" (maliki 
l-nas). In contrast to its use as a divine 
appellation, the term malik, when applied 
to earthly monarchs, often carries negative 
connotations in the Qur'an. For example, 
in Q_ 27:34, the Queen of Sheba (q.v.) 



remarks, "When kings enter a town, they 
ruin it and make the grandest of its people 
wretched." God may grant sovereignty to 
those whom he favors, such as David, Solo- 
mon (q.v.) andjoseph (q.v.; it is noteworthy, 
however, that the Qur'an does not attach 
the title of "king" to any of these figures); 
and Saul (q.v.; of whom the term "king" is 
used). In order to fulfil the divine purpose, 
God may also confer kingship on negative 
characters, such as Pharaoh (q.v.; who is 
described as "the king" in Q_ 12:43, 50, 54, 
72, 76), and the unnamed "king who confis- 
cates every good ship (see ships)" men- 
tioned in Q_ 18:79 (on his possible identity, 
see Baydawl, Anwar, i, 570-1; see also 
khadir/khidr). As a woman, the Queen 
of Sheba — known to Islamic tradition as 
Bilqls (q.v.) — of whom the term "queen" 
is not used in the Qur'an but who is de- 
scribed as "a woman who rules over them" 
(imra'atan tamlikuhum, Q_ 27:23), stands in a 
category of her own: for all her splendor, 
she is as an unbeliever and a woman sub- 
servient to Solomon (see WOMEN AND THE 

God's sovereignty, unlike that of earthly 
kings, is absolute. He is repeatedly de- 
scribed as possessing "sovereignty over 
the heavens and the earth" (lillahi mulku 
l-samawati wa-l-ardi). In many instances, 
the phrase is interpreted as a reference 
to God's creative power: at Q_ 24:42, al- 
Baydawl (d. 685/1286 or 692/1293) glosses 
the qur'anic text with the explication "for 
he is the creator of them both, and of the 
essences, accidents and actions within 
them" [Anwar, ii, 26; see cosmology; 
theology AND THE qur'an). Sometimes 
the description of God as possessing sover- 
eignty over the heavens and the earth is 
meant to correct the errors of other reli- 
gious groups, who may have failed to rec- 
ognize that "God is powerful without 
qualification" [qddir 'aid l-itldq; Baydawl, 
Anwar, i, 252, ad Q_ 5:17; see parties and 

factions). God's possession of sovereignty 
may also be presented as a challenge to 
the unbelievers and their gods (see idols 
and images; idolatry and idolaters). 
q_ 38:10 asks: "Or do they possess sover- 
eignty over the heavens and the earth and 
what lies between them?" Q_ 4:53-4, a pas- 
sage interpreted as a reference to the Jews 
(see jews and Judaism), asks: "Or do they 
possess a portion of the sovereignty? If 
they did, they would not give the people so 
much as the speck on a date stone. Or are 
they jealous of the people for what God 
has given them of his bounty (see bless- 
ing; grace)? For we gave the family of 
Abraham the book (q.v.) and wisdom (q.v.), 
and we gave them great sovereignty." (See 
the interpretations of these verses in TflsT, 
Tibydn, hi, 228; al-BaydawI, Anwar, i, 213-4.) 

The qur'anic notion of God's sovereignty 
is also linked to the assertion of his unique- 
ness (see god and his attributes). Twice 
the Qur'an states, "He has no partner in 
sovereignty" (lamyakun lahu shankunfi 
l-mulk, Q_ 17:111; 25:2; in the former verse, 
mulk is interpreted by Baydawl, Anwar, i, 
554, simply as "divinity"). On the day of 
judgment (see LAST judgment), sovereignty 
will be God's (o 22:56). Sovereignty is also 
among the phenomena that will be seen by 
those in paradise (q.v.): "And when you see, 
you shall see felicity and great sovereignty" 
(wa-idha ra'ayta thamma ra'ayta na'iman wa- 
mulkan kabiran, Q_ 76:20; cf. the hadlth 
recounted in Baydawl, Anwar, ii, 376). 

On the earthly plane, kingship is depicted 
as a great but treacherous bounty that hu- 
man beings, even those who receive divine 
favor, are naturally inclined to covet. For 
instance, Satan (see devil) tempts Adam 
(see adam and eve; fall of man) with the 
prospect of imperishable sovereignty: "O 
Adam! Shall I show you to the tree of 
immortality (see eternity) and sovereignty 
that never declines?" (q_ 20:120, yd Adamu 
hal adulluka 'aid shajarati l-khuldi wa-mulkin Id 



yabla). Joseph addresses God with gratitude 
sovereignty he has received from him 
(q_ 12:101; see Qutb, gildl, iv, 2029-30) and 
Solomon prays for kingship (q 38:35). 
Those whom God leads astray (q.v.; see 
almost intoxicated by the power of king- 
ship. In o_ 2:258, for example, Nimrod (q.v.) 
argues with Abraham about the latter's 
God on the grounds that Nimrod himself 
received kingship. (For the reason given 
above in connection with q 3:26, Mu'tazill 
commentators also paid close attention to 
o_ 2:258; see Zamakhsharl, Kashshaj, i, 
304-5, where two explanations are given: 
that God gave Nimrod the wealth [q.v.] , 
servants and followers that allowed him to 
become victorious [see victory], but did 
not make him victorious directly; or, that 
God made Nimrod a king as a test for his 
servants [see slaves and slavery] .) Simi- 
larly, Pharaoh boasts of his claim to the 
kingship (kingdom) of Egypt (q.v.; o_ 43:51). 
In his commentary on this passage, Sayyid 
Qutb (d. 1966) contrasts Pharaoh's king- 
dom of Egypt with the divine sovereignty 
over the heavens and the earth, and notes 
how the masses, whose eyes are dazzled by 
the accoutrements of Pharaoh's sover- 
eignty, fail to perceive, in their hearts (see 
heart), the insignificance of these royal 
trappings [glial, v, 3193; for a Sufi interpre- 
tation of the qur'anic Pharaoh, see Bower- 
ing, Mystical, 190-2; see sufism and the 

However powerful kings may appear to 
be on earth, the Qur'an makes clear that 
their authority in no way detracts from the 
overwhelming totality of God's power. The 
Qur'an strongly implies the contingency 
and the brevity of human, worldly king- 
ship (e.g. Q 40:29, "O my people! Today 
the kingdom is yours, who are triumphant 
in the earth; but who will come to our aid 
in the face of God's strength when it 

reaches us?"). Worldly power is invariably 
presented as part of God's creation, utterly 
contingent on him and at his disposal. 
This subordination of earthly rulership to 
divine power is often emphasized in the 
exegetical literature. For example, the Per- 
sian ShIT commentator Abu 1-Futuh RazI 
(d. 525/1 131 or later; see shi'ism and the 
qur'an), in his discussion of Q 67:1, "Praise 
be to the one by whose hand is sovereignty, 
and he is powerful over all things" (tabaraka 
lladhi bi-yadihi l-mulku wa-huwa 'aid kulli 
shay 'in qadirun), interprets the phrase bi- 
yadihi l-mulk as follows: "Kingship (pdd- 
shdhi) ... is by his command (amr) and 
power (qudrat), with 'hand' (q.v.) connoting 
strength and power, implying the sense of 
the administration and execution of 
affairs; the meaning is that sovereignty is 
his creation and at his disposal, such that 
he can bring it into existence and non- 
existence, increase it or decrease it, or 
modify it in various ways according to his 
wishes" (Abu 1-Futuh RazI, Rawh, xi, 208; a 
similar view is given by T us i> Tibyan, x, 57, 
who describes God as mdlik al-muluk, "the 
possessor of kings"; see also RazI, Tafsir, 
viii, 4, ad Q 3:26). 

The Children of Israel (q.v.) are said to 
have received special divine attention, for 
they were at times favored with both 
prophethood and kingship. Moses pro- 
claims: "O my people! Remember God's 
favor to you, how he made prophets 
among you and made you kings, and gave 
you that which he did not give to any 
[other] of his creatures" [yd qawmi 'dhkuru 
ni'mata llahi 'alaykum idhja'alajikum anbiyd'a 
wa-ja'alakum mulukan wa-atakum ma lamyu'ti 
ahadan min al-'dlamin, Q 5:20; for the exeget- 
ical treatment of this verse, see below). 
David and Solomon both combine their 
service as prophets with the possession of 
mulk. Of David, Q 38:20 states, "We made 
his kingdom strong and gave him the 
wisdom and clear speech" (wa shadadna 



mulkahu wa-atayndhu l-hikmata wa-fasla 
l-khitdb); similarly Q_ 2:251, "God gave him 
[David] the kingdom and the wisdom (al- 
mulka wa-l-hikma) and instructed him as to 
his will." Q_ 38:26 describes David also as a 
deputy or successor on earth (yd Dd'udu 
inndja'alndka khalifatanfl l-ard), a phrase for 
which al-Baydawi (Anwar, ii, 186) records 
two interpretations: that it refers to king- 
ship (mulk) on earth, or that it portrays 
David as a successor to earlier prophets. 
A reference to Solomon's kingdom appears 
in Q_ 2:102 and an extensive treatment of 
Solomon's career is given in Q 27. In 
o 38:35 he prays to God for forgiveness 
(q.v.), and also for sovereignty (for the role 
of Solomon as "the proof of God for 
kings" in Sufi tradition, see Bowering, 
Mystical, 64). While neither David nor 
Solomon is designated a king in the 
Qur'an, their examples, and especially the 
proof-text Q_ 38:26, are routinely cited in 
discussions of the excellence of kingship 
and its divine origins in later Islamic mir- 
ror literature. 

A somewhat more ambiguous case is that 
of Saul, known in the Qur'an as Talut. 
The Israelites are told by their prophet 
(who is nameless in the qur'anic account) 
that, in response to their request, God has 
sent them Saul as their king; yet the people 
reject Saul. p_ 2:247: "Their prophet said to 
them: 'God has sent you Taint as a king 
(malik)? They said: 'How is it that he 
should have sovereignty over us, when we 
are more worthy of kingship than he is? 
For he has not been given an abundance of 
wealth.' He said: 'God has chosen him 
over you, and has increased him largely in 
wisdom and stature. God gives his sover- 
eignty to whom he wishes.' " The commen- 
tators account for the Israelites' rejection 
of Saul by noting that he was poor, a shep- 
herd, water carrier or tanner, and that he 
came from Benjamin's (q.v.) stock, among 
whom neither prophethood nor kingship 

had appeared (Tabarl, Tafsir, y 306 f.; 
Razi, Tafsir, vi, 184-5; Baydawl, Anwar, i, 
127-8). The prophet (on whose identity see 
Baydawl, Anwar, i, 127) went on to tell them 
that the ark (q.v; tdbut) would come to 
them as a sign of Saul's kingdom (o 2:248). 

The exegetical literature reflects an 
apparent intent in some circles to minimize 
any possibly positive qur'anic emphasis on 
temporal kingship and this is most readily 
apparent in connection with the qur'anic 
passages that treat the singular combina- 
tion of prophethood and kingship enjoyed 
on occasion by the Israelites. In p_ 5:20 
(cited above), for example, Moses reminds 
his people of God's favor to them, in that 
he made prophets among them and made 
them kings. Al-Tabarl, followed by al-TusT 
(d. 460/1067) and others, records a number 
of interpretations, several of which suggest 
that the text indicates not that the Israelites 
were kings, but that they were masters — of 
themselves, their womenfolk (see gender), 
their possessions, and so on (Tabarl, Tafsir, 
x, 160-3; TtisI, Tibydn, iii, 481; Baydawl, 
Anwar, i, 253: "God delivered them out of 
slavery in Egypt and made them masters 
[mdlikun] of their persons and their affairs, 
and so God called them 'kings' "). Simi- 
larly, in his commentary on Q_ 27:15, "And 
we gave knowledge to David and Solomon, 
and they said: 'Praise be to God, who has 
favored us over many of his believing serv- 
ants!' " (alladhl faddaland 'aid kathirin min 
'ibadihi l-mu'minin), al-Baydawi (d. prob. 
716/1316-7; Anwar, ii, 64-5) explicitly subor- 
dinates kingship to knowledge when he 
writes: "In this is a proof of the excellence 
of knowledge and the nobility of those 
who possess it, in that they [David and 
Solomon] gave thanks for knowledge and 
made it the basis of excellence, and they 
did not consider the kingship that they had 
also been given, though [that kingship] had 
not been given to anyone else." When, in 
the following verse (o_ 27:16), the Qur'an 



states that Solomon inherited from David, 
al-BaydawT [Anwar, ii, 65) describes his 
inheritance as "prophethood, or knowl- 
edge, or kingship" (see also Mawardi, 
Mukat, iv, 198). 

The term imam (pi. a'imma) suggests a 
person (or, in other contexts, a book, or a 
pattern) to be followed and in some in- 
stances in the Qur'an the word may in- 
clude the idea of political leadership. 
Perhaps most strikingly, God appoints 
Abraham as an imam (q 2:124: gala inni 
jd'iluka lil-nasi imaman). For al-Tabari (Tafsir, 
hi, 18) this means that God intended that 
Abraham should be followed. Al-Mawardi 
(d. 450/1058) follows al-Tabari's interpre- 
tation and notes its particular relevance to 
prayer (q.v.; Mukat, i, 185; for a fuller treat- 
ment of the verse's meaning from a Shi'l 
perspective, see TiisT, Tibyan, i, 446, where 
the exegete records views according to 
which God by this verse made the imamatc 
incumbent on Abraham; on the Shi'lview 
that Abraham combined the functions 
of prophethood and the imamate, see 
Momen, Introduction, 147, and for Shi'l 
readings of the Qur'an on the subject of 
the historical imams, see Momen, Introduc- 
tion, 151-3). 

In two cases, the term a'imma is fol- 
lowed by the phrase "who guide by our 
command" (a'immatan yahduna bi- 
amrind) — o_ 21:73: "And we made them 
leaders who guide by our command, and 
we inspired them to do good deeds (q.v.), 
maintain prayer and almsgiving (q.v.), and 
they were worshippers (see worship) of 
us" and Q_ 32:24: "And we made among 
them [the Children of Israel] leaders who 
guide by our command" — which some 
commentators took to mean moral lead- 
ers, "leaders in goodness," while others 
understood it as a reference to prophets 
(Mawardi, Mukat, iv, 366). In o_ 28:5, the 
Qur'an states that God wished to make the 
oppressed (alladhina stud'ijuji l-ard, see 


into leaders (a'imma, Mawardi, Mukat, iv, 
234; Baydawl, Anwar, ii, 77). In o_ 9:12, the 
term imam, in the sense of a human leader, 
appears in a negative context: the refer- 
ence there to "the leaders of unbelief" 
(a 'immcita l-kufr) is interpreted variously as 
referring to the leaders of the polytheists 
(see polytheism and atheism), the leaders 
of Quraysh (q.v.) or those who intended to 
oust the Prophet (Mawardi, Mukat, ii, 345; 
TusI, Tibyan, v, 214; see opposition to 

Louise Marlow 

Primary: Abu 1-Futuh RazT, Rawh, 12 vols.; Bay- 
dawl, Anwar; Mawardi, Nukat; Qiitb, £jlal; RazI, 
Tafsir, ed. 'A. Muhammad, Cairo 1938; Tabari, 
Tafsir, ed. Shakir; TusI, Tibyan; Zamakhsharl, 
Kashshaf Beirut 1947. 

Secondary: A. Ayalon, Malik, in Ef, vi, 261-2; 
A. al-Azmeh, Muslim kingship, London 1997; 
Bowering, Mystical; B. Lewis, The political lan- 
guage of Islam, Chicago 1988; Mir, Dictionary; 
M. Momen, i;/ introduction to ShJ'T Islam, New 
Haven 1985; Paret, Koran; id., Signification 
coranique de halifa et d'autres derives de la 
racine halafa, in SI 31 (1970), 211-17; Penrice, 
Dictionary; M. Plessner, Mulk, in Ef, vii, 546-7; 
W. al-C^adl, The term "khalifa" in early 
exegetical literature, in TV/ 28 (1988), 392-411; 
F. Rahman, Major themes of the Qur'an, Minnea- 
polis 1980; 1989. 


Relationship by blood or marriage. 
Although there is no single term that cor- 
responds precisely to the English term 
"kinship," the Qur'an contains a variety of 
what might be identified as "kinship 
terms": qurbd (near relative); arham (close 
kin, maternal kin); 'ashira (clan, tribe; see 
tribes and clans); z,awj (husband); zawja 
(wife); imra'a (wife, woman); sdhiba (wife, 
companion, friend; the masc. sing., sahib, is 
also attested in the Qur'an, but does not 



have the familial connotation of the femi- 
nine form); akh (brother, friend; see 
AND friendship); hamim (solicitous relative, 
close friend); sihr (affine, relation through 
marriage); nasab (lineage, kindred, attribu- 
tion) and many others. 

In "the legal verses" (ayat al-ahkdm), those 
that contain stipulations on a variety of 
matters, the Qur'an also employs terms to 
set forth rules for marriage, divorce (see 
marriage AND divorce) and inheritance 
(mlrath, turath), which are foundational to 
the shari'a (see law and the qur'an). (In 
the case of marriage and divorce, the 
qur'anic text contains primarily verbal 
forms: "to marry," zo-i^waja, ahsana, nakaha, 
etc., "to divorce," tallaqa, Sahara, talaqa; the 
nominal forms that are prominent in the 
discourse of the shari'a, such as nikah, talaq, 
etc., are not as prevalent in the Qur'an; but 
cf. for nikah Q_ 2:235, 237; 24:33; for talaq 
Q_ 2:227, 229; and, as the name of a sura, 
65, "Surat al-Talaq.") As with all inter- 
pretations, the English glosses given here 
depend on particular judgments regarding 
"comparable" work done by words in two 

The terms selected at random and cited 
above are among those used in the Qur'an 
to urge or discourage certain kinds of 
behavior. Some are also used to specify 
particular rights and duties. But neither in 
the matter of moral exhortation and pro- 
hibition (see ethics and the qur'an; 
social interactions; prohibited 
degrees), nor in that of defining succes- 
sion to property rights, are the people 
concerned necessarily connected by "bio- 
logical links." For example, those who look 
after the affairs of orphans (q.v.) are urged 
to regard them as "brothers" (q 2:220); 
qur'anic inheritance rules affect people 
related by affinity (musdhara); and various 
kinship terms can convey the sense of 
"friendship," "solicitude," etc., which 

raises the question of how so-called pri- 
mary meanings are to be determined. 

There is an explicit assumption held by 
scholars since the nineteenth century that 
the people of the Hijaz (see geography), 
among whom the Qur'an was revealed, 
lived in a society that was essentially organ- 
ized in "kinship" terms (see pre-islamic 
Arabia AND THE qur'an). This assumption 
has serious implications for assessing the 
political, legal and moral reforms initiated 
by the Qur'an (see politics and the 
qur'an; community and society in the 
qur'an). One of the first to talk about pre- 
Islamic and early Islamic "tribal" society in 
detail was Smith [Kinship and marriage, 1885), 
a major figure in the history of both orien- 
talist and anthropological thought. The 
idea of "kinship" as the organizing princi- 
ple of "early" societies had been a continu- 
ous part of evolutionary social thinking 
since before his time. It has been increas- 
ingly problematized, however, in contem- 
porary anthropology (see Needham, 
Rethinking kinship). Most recently, Schneider 
(Critique) has demonstrated the question- 
able character of assumptions about 
"kinship organization." Although they fre- 
quently draw on anthropology when dis- 
cussing the society whose members first 
listened to the Qur'an (see orality; 
revelation AND inspiration), orientalists 
do not appear to have taken these impor- 
tant developments in anthropological the- 
ory into account. 

The nineteenth-century belief that the 
seventh-century Hijaz was a "kinship- 
based society" allowed orientalists to inter- 
pret and explain references to "kinship" in 
the Qur'an as a continuation of or break 
from pre-islamic [jahili, see AGE OF 
ignorance) principles and values. Thus 
Smith maintains that kinship among pre- 
islamic Arabs signified the blood shared by 
all the members of a tribe, the common 
substance that defined each individual's 



responsibility for — among other 
things — exacting vengeance in the name 
of the tribe (see retaliation; blood 
money). Many others have echoed this 
view — even a century after Smith, includ- 
ing Bashir (Tawdzun al-naqd'id), Donner 
(Early Islamic conquests) and Crone (Tribes 
and states). 

Smith argues that since all amicable 
social relations were conceived in terms of 
"common blood," the extensions of such 
relations had to be sealed by blood-rites. 
"The commingling of blood by which two 
men became brothers or two kins (sic) 
allies, and the fiction of adoption [see 
children] by which a new tribesman was 
feigned to be the veritable son of a mem- 
ber of the tribe, are both evidences of the 
highest value that the Arabs were incapa- 
ble of conceiving any absolute social obli- 
gation or social unity which was not based 
on kinship; for a legal fiction is always 
adopted to reconcile an act with a princi- 
ple too firmly established to be simply 
ignored" (Smith, Kinship and marriage, 51). 
Smith does not notice the double meaning 
he gives to "kinship" here — the one being 
a "biological" link and the other a "cul- 
tural representation" of the latter — just as 
he fails to notice that the existence of rites 
of friendship and adoption in the Age of 
Ignorance (jahiliyya) indicates that an abso- 
lute obligation could be extended to those 
who did not share "common blood" (see 
clients and clientage). The point is that 
what he calls "a legal fiction" is not a state- 
ment that refers to imagined kinship but 
what Austin (How to do) called a "perfor- 
mative act." 

The notion of kinship, as expressed in a 
variety of terms (qardba, nasab, 'ashlra, qawm, 
hayy, etc.), is not simply an instance of "cul- 
ture hitching a ride on nature" (Crone, 
Tribes and states, 355), i.e. of rights and 
duties attributed to biological facts. As a 
notion, kinship articulates distinctive ideas 

of social relations, morality and cosmology 
(q.v.), through which certain cultural facts 
can be constructed. Marriages as well as 
adoption create jural relations with mutual 
rights and obligations between persons 
who do not share "common blood." These 
relationships are not confused with "blood 
relationships." Marriage, for example, is a 
voluntary contract that is best seen as artic- 
ulating one aspect of the total set of gen- 
der relations (see Riviere, Marriage; see 
gender) — and that is precisely how it is 
envisaged in the Qur'an, often in explicit 
contrast to the Age of Ignorance. The rela- 
tionship between blood brothers in the Age 
of Ignorance was apparently free of the 
rights and obligations that were legally 
ascribed to kinship roles. (The Qur'an, of 
course, rejects legal adoption — see o 33:4, 
37 — as it rejects rites involving human 
blood.) This means that "blood brother- 
hood" (like friendship) in the Age of Igno- 
rance was based on what Levi-Strauss calls 
metaphor (similitude) as against metonymy 
(consubstantiation). When the Qur'an 
repudiates the attribution of nasab between 
God and jinn (q.v.) it is both "similitude" 
and "consubstantiation" that are being 
denied (q_ 37:158-9; see metaphor; similes; 


Crone agrees with conventional histori- 
ans (including Watt, Muhammad at Mecca; 
Muhammad at Medina, whom she attacks) 
that Mecca was "a tribal" society — a soci- 
ety based on "kinship." "In social terms," 
she observes, "the protection [q.v.] that 
Muhammad is said to have enjoyed from 
his own kin, first as an orphan and next as 
a prophet, would indicate the tribal system 
to have been intact" (Crone, Meccan trade, 
233). Her argument, however, is not logi- 
cally necessary. Yet Crone's insistence that 
"the tribal system" was "intact" does raise 
interesting questions about the relationship 
of her "model" to her "data," because it is 


not entirely clear how someone who denies 
the credibility of all traditional Islamic 
sources relating to Meccan society at the 
time of the Prophet is able to make such 
an assertion. The answer would appear to 
lie in her resort to the writings of nine- 
teenth-century European travelers and 
twentieth-century ethnographers (cf. 
Crone, Meccan trade, 236) — a style of his- 
torical inference adopted by other oriental- 
ists (e.g. Donner, Early Islamic conquests), 
even when they have not, as the radical 
skeptics have, dismissed all early Islamic 
sources (see Donner, Narratives, for a sober 
survey). Contemporary ethnographic 
studies of tribes — pastoral as well as agri- 
cultural — are useful for thinking about 
early historical periods, not because one 
can extrapolate from present social ar- 
rangements, which are extremely diverse, 
to distant historical ones, but because they 
can sensitize one to problems that need to 
be addressed when speculating about 
Islamic history (see history and the 
q_ur'an). The idea that contemporary 
"tribes" are living fossils of ancient ways of 
social life belongs to a theory of social evo- 
lution that anthropologists have long ago 
demolished and abandoned. 

The resort to the modern ethnography of 
tribes for purposes of historical reconstruc- 
tion also plays a crucial part in Powers' 
(Studies) revisionist account of the origins 
of the Islamic law of inheritance. When 
Smith reconstructed pre-Islamic Arabian 
society he represented the Islamic rules of 
inheritance as a modification of pre- 
Islamic (jahilT) ones. Smith's thesis eventu- 
ally became the established orientalist view. 
It is this view that Powers has challenged 
on the basis of a re-reading of the inheri- 
tance verses (especially Q_ 4:12, 176), to 
which arguments about the syntax of a 
qur'anic sentence and the meaning of the 
word kaldla are central (kaldla has been 

understood to mean "someone who has no 
parents or children, and therefore no direct 
heirs"; Powers translates it as "daughter-in- 
law"; see inheritance; grammar and 
the coir'an). Powers' thesis is that the re- 
ceived Islamic system of inheritance ('Urn. 
al-fara'id) is quite different not only from 
the pre-Islamic one but also from the 
proto-Islamic system of the Qur'an that 
gave a far greater scope to the principle of 
testamentary bequests than the shari'a 
allows. In evolutionary terms, the shift 
from the pre-Islamic system to the proto- 
Islamic one represents a double progress, 
(a) from the constraints of kinship to the 
freedom of contract (see contracts and 
alliances; breaking trusts and 
contracts) and (b) from the principle of 
inheritance by seniority (brother to 
brother) to the principle of generational 
inheritance (father to son). Powers sums 
this up as "a transition from nomadism to 
sedentary life and from tribalism to indi- 
vidualism" (Studies, 210). The 'Urn al-fara'id 
is therefore seen as a backward move, a 
clumsy compromise in the interests of 

According to Powers, the proto-Islamic 
system was distorted for political reasons 
by the Prophet's immediate successors who 
imposed the orthodox reading on the rele- 
vant verses (see readings of the qjjr'an; 
collection of the qur'an). The idea 
that the Prophet's most trusted Compan- 
and oldest converts would engage in a con- 
spiracy against him concerning the proper 
meaning of a divine verse which inaugu- 
rated a new legal dispensation, one that 
was presumably in force during the 
Prophet's lifetime, seems, according to 
Powers' critics, far-fetched. (For this and 
other critical points relating to Arabic syn- 
tax and the etymology of kaldla, see Zia- 
deh, Review of Powers; see also Arabic 



language; language and style of the 
q_ur'an.) Some Muslim modernists (e.g. 
Arkoun, Min al-ijtihad), however, have 
received Powers' re-interpretation of the 
"kinship" kalala with enthusiasm because it 
supports their desire to challenge what they 
see as the ideological manipulation of the 
qur'anic text by jurists and theologians 
determined to impose traditional authority 
(q.v.) on all believers and to prevent the use 
of critical reason by the individual (see 
islam; contemporary critical prac- 
tices AND THE QJUR'an). 

So what does "kinship" mean in the 
Qur'an? Certainly not "common blood," a 
Western idiom, because the Arabic for 
"blood" (damm) is never used in the Quran 
to denote that which relatives share in 
common (see blood and blood clot; 
biology as the creation and stages of 
life). From a Muslim exegetical perspec- 
tive, signification must be sought in the 
connection between believer and text. For 
pious Muslims qur'anic meanings are not 
mechanically determined by grammatical 
and lexical criteria or by some objective 
context (see occasions of revelation). 
Far from being a simple injunction, piety 
(q.v.) and fear (q.v.) of God (birr wa-taqwa) 
on the part of attentive Muslims is under- 
stood to be a presupposition for arriving at 
the meanings of the Qur'an, because the 
divine recitation evokes and confirms what 
is already in the heart (q.v.) of the faithful 
man or woman (see belief and unbelief; 
recitation of the qjjr'an). 

A number of themes emerge through the 
qur'anic use of "kinship" terms. To begin 
with, any similitude and common sub- 
stance between God and humans is 
strongly rejected (e.g. Q_ 5:18, and most 
famously in Surat al-Ikhlas, "Sincere De- 
votion," o_ 112; see anthropomorphism). 
God cannot be likened or compared to 
anything — particularly as everything is of 

his creation (q.v.). The Qur'an does, how- 
ever, recognize friendship between God 
and humans, but friendship in this case 
transcends the absence of similitude: for it 
was God who chose to make Abraham 
(q.v.) his friend (khalil) because the latter 
had given his entire being to him (o_ 4:125; 
see hanif). The faithful, on the other 
hand, are bound by their common faith 
and the union of their hearts, which makes 
them brothers to one another (o_ 3:103; 
49:10). God has endowed human beings in 
this world with bonds of descent and affin- 
ity (nasaban wa-sihran) — that is to say, with 
enduring relations that are inherited as 
well as voluntarily undertaken (q_ 25:54). 
Thus one owes obedience (q.v.) to one's 
parents (q.v.) — and especially to one's 
mother (p_ 31:14): parents are to be wel- 
comed and honored, just as the prophet 
Joseph (q.v.) welcomed his mother and his 
father (q_ 12:99-100). Indeed obedience to 
parents is a virtue (see virtues and vices, 
commanding and forbidding) even if 
they happen to be non-Muslims (o 40:8), 
so long as this does not involve disobedi- 
ence (q.v.) to God (o_ 58:22). (See, for exam- 
ple, the widely used textbook on the pre- 
scribed relations between parents and 
children in Islam, Salih, 'Alaqat al-aba', 
15-41.) But on the day of judgment (see 
last judgment) one stands alone before 
God surveying one's completed life 
(q_ 23:101). All inherited and created bonds 
of life are there dissolved. One flees from 
all one's kin — including one's parents, 
brothers, spouse (sahiba), and children 
(o 80:33-7). On that day any sense of kin- 
ship as common substance is proven mean- 
ingless. Only similitude links us together. 
Hence one must temper worldly attach- 
ments of every kind. 

As understood by the faithful Muslim, the 
qur'anic language of kinship articulates 
ways of behaving in this world in full 


consciousness of God, rather than repre- 
senting the traces of a secular society in 
the process of evolving from tribalism to 
individualism. See also family. 

Talal Asad 

M. Arkoun, Min al-ijtihdd ild naqd al-'aql al-isldmr, 
Beirut 1993; J.L. Austin, How to do things with 
words, Oxford 1962; S. Bashlr, Tawdzun al-naqd'id. 
Muhadarat fi 1-jdhilTyya wa-sadri [-islam, Jerusalem 
1978; G.-H. Bousquet and F. Peltier, Les successions 
agnatiques initigees. Etude comparee du regime succes- 
soral en droit germanique et en droit musulman, Paris 
1935; P. Crone, Meccan trade and the rise of Islam, 
Princeton 1987; id., Tribes and states in the 
Middle East, in JRAS Series 3 vol. 3 (1993), 
353-76; KM. Donner, The early Islamic conquests, 
Princeton 1981; id., Narratives of Islamic origin. The 
beginnings of Islamic historical writing, Princeton 
1998; R. Needham (ed.), Rethinking kinship and 
marriage, London 1971; D.S. Powers, Studies in 
Qur'an and hadith, Berkeley 1986; PG. Riviere, 
Marriage. A reassessment, in R. Needham, 
Rethinking kinship and marriage, London 1971, 57-74; 
F. Rosenthal, Nasab, in El 2 , vii, 967-8; S.I. Salih, 
Aldqdt al-dbd' bi-l-abnd'fi l-shanati l-isldmiyya, 
Jeddah 1981, repr. 1984; D.M. Schneider, A 
critique of the study of kinship, Ann Arbor 1984; 
W.R. Smith, Kinship and marriage in early Arabia, 
Cambridge 1885; W.M. Watt, Muhammad at 
Mecca, Oxford 1953; id., Muhammad at Medina, 
Oxford 1956; Watt-Bell, Introduction; FJ. Ziadeh, 
Review of Powers' Studies in Qur'an and hadith 
(1986), iny^OA- 108 (1988), 487-8. 

Kitab see book; people of the book; 


Knife see instruments 

Knowledge and Learning 

Cognitive understanding and its acquisi- 
tion. Concepts of knowledge and learning 
appear frequently in nearly all types of 
Islamic discourse. They are commonly 
subsumed under a variety of Arabic words 

such as 'Urn, ma'rifa, fiqh, hikma and shu'u?; 
and the verbs and verbal derivatives of 
each, many of which find representation in 
the Qur'an itself, at least in form if not in 

The problem of defining knowledge and 
explaining its relationship to faith (q.v.) on 
the one hand, and to action and works on 
the other (see good deeds; evil deeds; 
ethics and the q_ur'an), became, for ex- 
ample, the subject of intense debate and 
eventual elaboration involving precision 
and technical complexity. One example is 
the great concern of the experts about 
establishing that human knowledge is con- 
tingent and temporally produced whereas 
that of God is not, although he somehow, 
despite the paradox, comprehends and is 
the author of what humans think (see 
intellect; freedom and predestina- 
tion). For both philosophy (falsafa) and 
theology (kalam) a precise understanding of 
the nature of knowledge ('ilm) is, in fact, 
for this and many other reasons an essen- 
tial first premise to all subsequent reason- 
ing (see philosophy and the qur'an; 
theology and the qijr'an). A major cat- 
egory of Islamic literature took up the 
theme of the enumeration of the sciences 
fi/isa' al-'ulum), that is, of laying out sche- 
matically all knowledge and explaining its 
value, ranks, and the relationship of one 
kind to the others. Religious scholars in 
Islam are "those who know" ('ulama', sing. 
'dlim). The search for knowledge (talab al- 
'ilm) is a duty for all Muslims, but especially 
for those who aspire to attain the status of 
a learned authority (q.v). Seeking knowl- 
edge implies both finding and studying 
with a teacher and traveling to distant 
lands (even to China). Sufi mystics (see 
sufism and the qur'an) sought to sepa- 
rate the process of knowing through intui- 
tive perception (dhawq) and presence from 
discursive learning and rational or intellec- 


tual reasoning — an effort that has led to 
an impressively sophisticated body of writ- 
ings, both by the Sufis and by those who 
would deny their approach. Even earlier 
Muslims debated, as yet another example, 
the extent to which knowledge is confined 
to, or conveyed exclusively within, a natu- 
ral language and its grammar (see gram- 

language, concept of). For example, is 
what can be known in Arabic — the lan- 
guage of the Islamic revelation — different 
from Greek science and philosophy in part 
because of its linguistic home? Or does 
there exist a universal logic of thought that 
transcends (and is therefore superior to) 
particular expressions in use in a given cul- 
ture? The hadith (see hadith and the 
cjur'an), as yet one more category, already 
include numerous admonitions about the 
value of knowledge, its reward and the 
duty to seek it, to gather and preserve it, to 
journey abroad in search of it. In it teach- 
ers are accorded high honor; Muhammad 
was a teacher; the angel Gabriel (q.v.) also 
(see teaching). 

All these examples merely hint at the 
enormous importance of knowledge and 
learning in the Islamic world over time 
and place from the earliest period of post- 
qur'anic Islam to the present (see teach- 
ing and preaching the q_ur'an). Every 
facet of Islamic thought was and continues 
to be affected by it. But it is doubtful that 
these concepts of knowledge or of learning 
and the characteristic value placed on 
them in Islam generally, come from the 
Qur'an itself or find an echo there. It is, of 
course, always possible, and often done, to 
interpret the sacred text to draw on its 
amazing flexibility and thus yield almost 
any meaning from its words (see exegesis 
of the chjr'an: classical and medieval; 

AND contemporary). Nevertheless, given 

the original context for the Qur'an, claim- 
ing as it does to represent the very words 
of God and not those of humans except 
secondarily, the perspective from which it 
speaks is not that of the community of 
Muslims. It does not reflect their later 
need to acquire or preserve knowledge. 

In the world of the Qur'an God alone 
knows (see god and his attributes); 
truth (q.v.) is his. In it either humans do not 
know, even though they may think they 
know, or God causes a select few of them 
to possess a limited degree of knowledge 
and truth (see ignorance; impeccabil- 
ity). They know what he lets them know. 
This starkly different view of knowledge is 
perhaps best approached by observing a 
common theme in later Islamic thought of 
how to know God and, almost as import- 
ant, how to express and verbally explain 
knowing God. One aspect of the problem 
is that God is infinite and no finite creature 
can know an infinite (see anthropomorph- 
ism). Knowing a thing implies compre- 
hending the thing as it really and truly is. 
But that is impossible in relation to the 
infinite, unlimited, inexhaustible God. 
God cannot be known by humans; they 
will merely come to "acknowledge" him or 
"be aware" of him. Some authors make a 
distinction here between "knowing" (the 
verb 'alima) and "recognizing" (the verb 

But, even so, is there any correspondence 
at all between the knowledge that God has 
and what knowledge the human possesses, 
acquires, or comes to know? Obviously, 
God himself does not learn, but does he 
teach? An important theme in Islamic writ- 
ings concerns the relative worth of study 
and effort versus the spontaneous acquisi- 
tion of inspired enlightenment (see reve- 
lation and inspiration; prophets and 
prophethood). Should the seeker of 
knowledge — here the exact meaning of 


knowledge can vary — read books and 
take instruction, or avoid both and prepare 
for the infusion of knowledge by grace 
through pious practice and exercise (see 

In the Quran the fact that God is all- 
knowing f'alim), knows what humans do 
not, and knows the unseen ('alim al-ghayb, 
'allam al-ghayb) is stressed constantly (see 
HIDDEN AND THE hidden). The term all- 
knowing ('alim) appears literally again and 
again, often in combination with all-wise 
[hakim, see wisdom; judgment) but also 
with all-hearing [sami, see HEARING AND 
phrase states clearly that "over and above 
every person who has knowledge is the 
all-knowing" (q_ 12:76). In fact, every 
qur'anic instance (thirteen in all) of the 
term "knower" ['alim [sing.]), which is the 
same word as that used later for the 
learned scholar, is followed by "unseen" 
(ghayb) and therefore refers unambiguously 
to God. It is true that there are references 
(five) to "those with knowledge" in the 
plural ('alimun, 'ulama') and several expres- 
sions for humans "who know, understand, 
are aware" (ulu l-albab, for example, or 
al-rasikhunji l-'ilm). Nevertheless, God's 
preponderance and omniscience is over- 
whelming, so much so as to bring into 
question what it means to assert that hu- 
mans, even the prophets, know. 

A further issue is how they come to know 
whatever it is that they know. Strictly 
within the Qur'an, the terms for knowing 
and knowledge ['Urn, ma'rifa, fiqh, shu'ur and 
the various forms they take) seem to sug- 
gest not a degree or quantity, but an abso- 
lute, in which the known object is simply 
the truth — what truly is — in its ultimate 
reality and not some fact of ordinary per- 
ception. Common human knowledge in its 
mundane form lacks value in comparison. 
Thus, to have knowledge or to come to 
have knowledge implies becoming aware of 

the true nature of the universe as God's 
creation (q.v.) and of his role in it. In most 
cases, qur'anic references to those who 
know or do not know indicate only 
whether or not the person or persons un- 
derstands this truth and do not indicate an 
acquired or accumulated degree of learn- 
ing. Those who have knowledge (al-'ulamd) 
are simply those who truly fear (q.v.) God 
(q_ 35:28). Q_ 3:66 (among others) refers to 
those who argue about a matter about 
which they have no knowledge; only God 
knows what they think they know. 

The opposites of knowledge are igno- 
rance (jahl), which is not having guidance 
[huda, as in q_ 6:35; see astray; error), 
supposition or conjecture (q_ 53:28) and the 
following of personal whims in the absence 
of knowledge (as in Q_ 6:119, and 30:29), all 
of which denote a failure, often willful, to 
perceive and acknowledge the truth. Even 
the expressions for those who possess un- 
derstanding (ulu l-albab), who are firmly 
grounded in knowledge (al-rasikhunji l-'ilm) 
or who come to know that which they for- 
merly knew not (ma lam ya'lam, ma lam takun 
ta'lam), indicate, not learning in the normal 
sense of that word, but having such knowl- 
edge, that is, of being wise in matters of 
religion (q.v.) and the affairs of God. 

Given that knowledge does not depend 
on study and learning, it is fair to ask if the 
Qur'an contains a concept of instruction 
as in either the teaching by God of hu- 
mans or humans of other humans, leading 
some to become more learned than others. 
There are in fact several verses that, in 
accordance with the Quran's fertile elastic- 
ity, can be construed in this manner. Most 
use the second — that is, transitive — form 
of the verb "to know" ('alima), thus to 
"teach" ('allama). Important examples in- 
clude "he taught Adam the names of all 
things" (o 2:31; see ADAM AND eve); "we 
have no knowledge except that which you 
taught us" (q 2:32); "the most merciful 



taught the Qur'an; he created man and 
taught him the explanation (al-bayan)" 
(Q. 55 :i "4)> "Lord... you have taught me 
[Joseph] the interpretation of events" 
(q, 12:101; see Joseph; dreams and sleep; 
foretelling; divination; portents); 
and "we have been taught the language of 
the birds" (27:16; see animal life). It is 
easy to see how these cases can be, as they 
have been, understood as proof that God 
acts as the teacher of humankind, at least 
of the prophets. In a closely parallel exam- 
ple, however, God instead "brings" or "be- 
stows" (ata) knowledge: "we have brought 
to David (q.v.) and Solomon (q.v.) knowl- 
edge" (q_ 27:15); the sense is rather of God's 
causing the recipient to know something, 
not by instruction but by instantaneous 
revelation. "God revealed (anzala) to you 
the book (q.v.), and wisdom and caused 
you to know that which you previously 
knew not" (q_ 4:113). This latter sense fits 
better the tone of the Qur'an and of the 
power of God as expressed in it generally 
(see power and impotenge). The slow 
accumulation of items of knowledge 
applies solely to humans learning from 
other humans. It involves a temporal and 
sequential process quite different from that 
of God. Accordingly, therefore, the first of 
these verses reads: "he caused Adam to 
have knowledge of the names of all things" 
and thus it does not imply a process of 
learning or that, despite his knowledge, 
Adam was "learned." 

The cryptic words of Q_ 96:4-5, "he it is 
who taught by the pen; taught humankind 
(al-insan) what it knew not" suggest, how- 
ever, the opposite since they indicate, if 
taken literally, a form of instruction that 
by its very nature must be sequentially 
ordered. The commentators note, however, 
that the verse may rather be read such that 
God taught the use of the pen, that is, writ- 
ing itself. Nevertheless, the more common 
interpretation is that he taught by means of 

the pen and therefore quite possibly these 
verses point to some type of book learning 
(see book; writing and writing mate- 
rials). A few isolated verses also mention 
learning or instruction in a situation in- 
volving humans imparting (or purportedly 
imparting) knowledge from one to the 
other. Two of these (p_ 44:14 and 16:103), 
however, cite false imputations that 
Muhammad had been taught what he 
knew by another man (a foreigner; see 
informants; strangers and foreign- 
ers). One more verse (q_ 2:102) speaks of a 
kind of sorcery or magic (q.v.) taught by 
devils (see devil) for evil purposes, such as 
a spell to separate a man and his wife (see 

Yet another verse (p_ 9:122) contains a 
verb form that usually denotes quite clearly 
"to study" (tafaqqaha) and is there joined 
with the word "religion" ( 
l-din), in a phrase that would translate 
"that they may study (or become learned 
in) religion." The verse as a whole cautions 
the Muslims not to go to war (q.v.) alto- 
gether but to leave behind a contingent 
when the rest go out. But according to a 
widely accepted interpretation (credited by 
the commentary tradition to Ibn 'Abbas 
[d. 68/686-8]), it applies specifically to a 
time when the Prophet was then actively 
receiving revelations and other instructions 
from God and, if none of the Muslims 
were to stay with him at home, none would 
come to know those aspects of the religion 
imparted to him in that interval. Subse- 
quently, they could neither transmit it 
accurately to those not present nor insure 
its later preservation. And yet another view 
is that it is the party that goes out to war 
(not those who remain behind) that gains a 
deeper understanding and appreciation of 
religion — witnessing in this case how, by 
God's support, a few Muslims can defeat a 
much larger force of unbelievers (see 
expeditions AND battles) — and brings 



that truth back with them to share with the 
others (see fighting; jihad). Both inter- 
pretations are related, for example, by 
Fakhr al-Din al-RazI (d. 606/1210; Tafsn; 
xvi, 225-7), among others. Thus, despite 
the use of this quite suggestive verb, given 
the context of the passage as a whole, the 
"study of religion" which is what some 
authorities would later have it imply, is not 
necessarily what was involved in this par- 
ticular situation. 

Paul E. Walker 

Primary (in addition to the standard commen- 
taries on the verses cited above): al-Ghazall, Abu 
Hamid Muhammad, The book of knowledge. Being a 
translation with notes of the Kitab al- ( Ilm of al- 
GhazalVs Ihya' c ulum al-dln, trans. N.A. Faris, 
Lahore 1962, 1970* (rev. ed.); RazT, Tqfsir, ed. 
M. Muhyl 1-Dln. 

Secondary: 'Abd al-Baql; R. Arnaldez, Ma'rifa, 
in Efi, vi, 568-71; [Ed.], 'Ilm, in Ef, hi, 1133-4; 
F. Rosenthal, Knowledge triumphant. The concept of 
knowledge in medieval Islam, Leiden 1970; Wen- 
sinck, Concordance (s.v. c ilm); id., Handbook (s.v. 


A figure living at the time of Moses (q.v.) 
who is mentioned both in the Bible and the 
Qur'an. He is described in Q_ 28:76-82 and 
briefly mentioned in two other verses. 
Korah (Ar. Qariin) is introduced as one of 
the people of Moses, yet one who treated 
them unjustly (g_ 28:76-82; see justice and 
injustice; oppression). God accorded 
him such enormous treasures that "its very 
keys (majatihahu) were too heavy a burden 
for a company of men" (q_ 28:76) to carry. 
When people tirged him to use his wealth 
(q.v.) for God's purposes and, with the 
world to come in mind (see eschatology), 
he would answer that the only reason he 
possessed his wealth was because of his 
knowledge (see knowledge and learn- 

ing). Finally, when Korah "went forth unto 
his people in his adornment" (q_ 28:79) and 
his people argued about his fortune, God 
decreed his death, making the earth swal- 
low him and his house (see punishment 
stories; chastisement and punishment). 
Two other verses mention the name of 
Korah. In the first of these (q_ 29:39) he, 
along with Pharaoh (q.v.) and Haman 
(q.v.), arrogantly (see arrogance) opposes 
the signs (q.v.) brought by Moses, while in 
the other he, along with Pharaoh and 
Haman, accuses Moses of being a lying 
sorcerer (p_ 40:24; see soothsayers; 
magic; lie; insanity). 

As well as containing some elements that 
are similar to the biblical story of Korah 
(cf. Num 16; see scripture and the 
cjur'an; myths and legends in the 
q_ur'an), the Qur'an mainly stresses the 
fact, which had already been highlighted 
in rabbinical literature, of his great wealth. 
A saying of Muhammad, which reflects 
qur'anic content, mentions his name along 
with those of Haman and Pharaoh as 
examples of people destined to go to hell 
(q.v.; Ibn H an bal, Musnad, ii, 169). Exegeti- 
cal traditions usually recount that Korah 
was Moses' cousin or, according to Mu- 
hammad b. Ishaq (d. 150/767), his uncle 
(Tabari, TafsTr, xx, 105; see exegesis of 
the qur'an: classical and medieval). 
He was so handsome or his voice, while 
reciting the Torah (q.v.), was so beautiful 
that he was named the Enlightened (al- 
munawwar). His appearance among his 
people is described with a wealth of detail, 
from his luxurious dress to the magnifi- 
cence of his escort, consisting of three 
hundred maids, four thousand riding 
beasts with purple saddles or with seventy 
thousand or more soldiers. The keys of his 
treasures were the leather keys of his store- 
houses; they were no larger than a finger 
and so heavy that only forty men or forty 
camels or sixty mules could carry them. 

I() 5 


Korah, envious of the prophethood of 
Moses and of the sacerdotal privileges of 
Aaron (q.v.; Abu 1-Layth al-Samarqandi, 
TafsTr, ii, 525; see prophets and prophet- 
hood), planned to get rid of Moses when 
the duty of the alms tax was revealed (see 
almsgiving). He paid a woman to accuse 
Moses of adultery (see adultery and 
fornigation) but the woman, when exam- 
ined by Moses, retracted her accusation 
and unmasked Korah's plan. Moses or- 
dered the earth to seize Korah and, in spite 
of his pleas, he and his house were com- 
pletely swallowed up (Muqatil, TafsTr, iii, 
357). Other traditions state that every day 
Korah sinks deeper into the earth by the 
height of a man and that he will continue 
sinking at this rate until the day of resur- 
rection (q.v). It is also said, however, that 
while sinking in the earth, one day Korah 
heard Jonah's (q.v.) voice in the belly of 
the whale and that he felt sorry when he 
learned of Moses' and Aaron's death; as a 
reward for this, God relieved him of the 
punishment (Majlisi, Bihar, xiii, 253; see 
reward AND punishment). Some other 
reports tell of Korah's knowledge of al- 
chemy and they are usually linked to the 
qur'anic statement about his knowledge. 
Some traditions specify that he was able to 
change lead and copper into silver and 
gold (q.v.) or that Korah learned the art of 
alchemy from his wife, who was Moses' 
sister (Kisa'i, Qisas, 229; see medicine and 

The origin of the Arabic form of the 
name of Korah (Qarun) is unknown but 
seems to parallel the form of other names 
such as Aaron {Harun, Horovitz, KU, 131). 

al-JawzT, ZjTd, Damascus 1953-4, v *' 2 39~45> 
Khazin, Lubdb, v, 181-5; Kisa'i, Qisas, 229-30; 
al-MajlisT, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar at-anwar, 
Beirut 1983, xiii, 249-58; Mawardl, Nukat, iv, 
264-71; Mujahid, TafsTr, ed. Abu 1-Nll, 532-3; 
Muqatil, TafsTr, iii, 355-8; Qiimml, TafsTr, Beirut 
1991, ii, 144-6; RazT, TafsTr, xxv, 12-8; Sibt Ibn 
al-JawzT, Mir'at, 449-52; Suyutl, Durr, 8 vols., 
Cairo 1983, vi, 436-43; TabarT, TafsTr, Cairo 
1968, xx, 105-22; id., Ta'rTkh, ed. de Goeje, i, 
517-27; Tha'labl, Qisas, 188-92; id., al-Tabsira, 
Beirut 1970, i, 251-4. 

Secondary: A. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem 
Judenthume aufgenommen? Leipzig 1902, 153; Horo- 
vitz, ku, I3i;jeffery, For vocab., 231-2; D.B. Mac- 
donald, Karun, in El 2 , iv, 673; D. Sidersky, Les 
origines des Ugendes musulmanes dans le Coran et dans 
les vies des prophetes, Paris 1933, 95 _ 97; Speyer, 
Erzdhlungen, 342-4. 

Roberto Tottoli 

Primary: c Abd al-Razzaq, TafsTr, ii, 93-4; Abu 
1-Layth al-Samarqandi, TafsTr, ii, 525-8; Ibn 
Hanbal, Musnad, Cairo 1895, ii, 169; Ibn 


Labor see manual labor; birth 


Production of milk for nursing a child; die 
act of nursing a child. Q_ 2:233, 4:23 and 
65:6, all dating (according to Bell) from the 
Medinan period (see chronology and 
the qjur'an), lay the foundations of an 
Islamic "ethics of breastfeeding" (the Ara- 
bic terms for which utilize derivatives of 
the triliteral root r-d-'). In the Medinan 
sura Q_ 22:2, nurses (hill murdi'a) and nurs- 
lings (ma arda 'at) are mentioned in an es- 
chatological context (see eschatology); 
the qur'anic story of Moses' (q.v.) infancy 
(the Medinan Q_ 28:7, 12) includes refer- 
ences to nursing and wet nurses (marddi'j; 
and, finally, weaning (fisdl) is described as 
part of the stages of life (the Medinan 
o 46:15; cf. the Meccan Q_ 31:14; see biol- 
ogy as the creation and stages of 

That breastfeeding is a maternal instinct 
is implied in Q_ 22:2 and, even more 
strongly, in o 28:7-12. In Q_ 22:2, nursing 
mothers, who due to grief and anxiety 
neglect their own nurslings, are listed 
among the signs of the dramatic displace- 

ment that will shake the universe on the 
day of judgment (see last judgment; 
apocalypse). Moreover, in Q 28:7-12, the 
love and care of Moses' mother for her 
nursling find emphatic expression. Q_ 28:12 
shows that the Arabs (q.v.) of the early sev- 
enth century were aware that infants some- 
times reject the milk (q.v.) of women other 
than their own mothers (see children; 

q_ 2:233 calls upon the nurslings' fathers 
to "provide reputably for their [e.g. their 
repudiated, lactating wives] food and 
clothing" during "two full years" (cf. 
Q_ 31:14: wa-fisdluhufi 'dmayni) unless both 
father and mother "by mutual agreement 
and consultation desire [weaning] (earlier)" 
(see parents; family). This could be read 
as an effort to protect repudiated (see mar- 
riage and divorce) women who were 
nursing — and their nurslings — in a soci- 
ety which was becoming sedentary (see 
geography; city) and experiencing in- 
creasing individualism as well as a transi- 
tion from a matrilineal to a patrilineal 
family structure (Bianquis, Family, 614; 
Watt, Muhammad, 272-89; see patriarchy; 
gender; women and the qjur'an). Wet- 
nursing (q.v.), in this context of the separa- 
tion of the parents, is sanctioned by the 


same verse. Q_ 65:6 explicitly refers, more- 
over, to the repudiated (divorced) wife who 
is being paid to nurse her own infant. 

Q_ 4:23 mentions milk mothers and milk 
sisters among those with whom a man may 
not have sexual relations (see prohibited 
degrees; sex and sexuality). It thus 
adds a unique element to a long Semitic 
tradition of prohibitions of marriage by 
extending the range of incest beyond its 
definition in Judaism and Christianity 
(Heritier, Deux soeurs, 87-91; see also 
fosterage; scripture and the qur'an; 
jews and judaism; christians and 
Christianity). According to Watt, the 
principle that milk-relationship is on the 
same level as blood-relationship may be 
seen as a concession to matrilineal groups 
which, practicing forms of polyandry, 
avoided undue endogamy by making cer- 
tain degrees of milk-relationship a barrier 
to marriage (Watt, Muhammad, 281; cf. 
Schacht/Burton and Chelhod, Rada', 
362; see also kinship; blood and blood 

Islamic rules concerning lactation, as 
formulated in works of qur'anic exegesis, 
hadlth and fiqh, are based on the normative 
verses among the above-mentioned. These 
were interpreted against a background of 
circumstances and needs that sometimes 
differed from those of the early Muslim 
community (see community and society 
in THE q_ur'an). One example would be 
the growing importance of hired wet- 
nursing among urban higher social groups 
of the Muslim world in the high Middle 
Ages. Thus, Ibn al-'Arabl (d. 543/1148; 
Ahkam, 202-6) refers to no less than fifteen 
legal questions, the answers to which are 
based on Q_ 2:233. Such questions include, 
for instance, whether breastfeeding is a 
mother's right or duty and, assuming it is 
her duty, whether or not noble women are 
exempted from fulfilling it. Ibn al-'Arabi 

further concludes that a mother's right to 
the custody of her child [hadana, not men- 
tioned in the Qur'an) is based on Q_ 2:233 
since the functions of — and therefore the 
right to — lactation (rada') and hadana can- 
not be separated (cf. Ilkiya al-HarrasI, 
Ahkam, i/ii, 187). 

Hadlth and qur'anic commentaries, pos- 
tulating a connection between the mother's 
milk and her husband's semen, explain 
Q_ 4:23 (explicitly referring to milk mother 
and milk sisters only) as intended to dupli- 
cate for milk relationships the list of those 
blood relatives with whom a Muslim man 
is forbidden to contract marriage (Giladi, 
Infants, 24-7). 

Avner Giladi 

Primary: al-HarrasT, 'Imad al-Dln Ah b. 
Muhammad b. 'All Ilkiya Abu 1-Hasan al- 
TabarT, Ahkam al-Quran, 4 vols., Beirut 1983; Ibn 
al-'ArabT, Ahkam, Cairo 1957. 
Secondary: Th. Bianquis, The family in Arab 
Islam, in A. Burguiere et al. (eds.), A history of the 
family, 2 vols., Cambridge 1996, i, 601-47; 
A. Giladi, Infants, parents and wet nurses. Medieval 
Islamic views on breastfeeding and their social 
implications, Leiden 1999; F. Heritier, Les deux 
soeurs et leur mere, Paris 1994; J. Schacht/J. Burton 
and J. Chelhod, Rada', in £/", viii, 361-2; M.W. 
Watt, Muhammad at Medina, Oxford 1956. 

Ladder see ascension 


Manufactured light-giving object. The 
most common reference to a lamp (Ar. 
misbdh and siraj) in the Qur'an is a meta- 
phoric use (see metaphor) of the word siraj 
to designate the sun (q.v.): "And we built 
over you seven firmaments (see heaven 
and sky) and made a splendid light (sirdjan 
wahhajan)" (cj 78:12-3; cf. DamaghanI, 



Wujuh, i, 442); "And he made the moon 
(q.v.) a light among them and he made the 
sun a lamp (al-shamsa sirajan)" (o_ 71:16); and 
"Blessed is he who made constellations (see 
planets AND stars) in the sky and made 
in it a lamp (sirajan) and a light-giving 
moon" (p> 25:61). On one occasion 
(o 33:46), however, the prophet Muham- 
mad is referred to as a light-giving lamp 
[sirajan muniran, see names of the 

The most celebrated reference to a lamp 
(misbdh) is in o_ 24:35, commonly know as 
the "Light Verse" (ayat al-nur; cf. Dama- 
ghani, Wujuh, ii, 231; see light; material 


JamalJ. Elias 

Bibliography (see also Bibliography of light) 
DamaghanT, Wujuh, ed. Zafitl. 

Land see geography; creation 

Language, Concept of 

The uniquely human faculty of (primarily) 
verbal expression. In the Qur'an, the con- 
cept of language is expressed by the word 
lisan (lit. tongue). The other common term 
for language, lugha, which is well-attested 
in classical and modern standard Arabic 
(see ARABIC language), does not appear 
in the Qur'an; one encounters only the 
related words laghw and laghiya, which 
express exclusively the connotation of 
"vain utterance." 

There are twenty-five occurrences of the 
word lisan in the Qur'an, fifteen in the sin- 
gular and ten in the plural (alsina; the other 
plural, alsun, is not attested in the Qur'an; 
cf. 'Abd al-Baqi). In all of its occurrences 
in the plural, lisan actually refers to the 

tongue as the organ of speech, a meaning 
found in six of its occurrences in the singu- 
lar. While lisan designates the tongue as the 
organ of speech, speech (q.v.) itself and the 
act of speaking are designated by the verb 
qala and its derivatives as, for example, in 
Q_ 20:27-8: "Unloose the knot upon my 
tongue that they might understand my 
words" (wa-uhlul 'uqdatan min lisam yafqahu 
qawli). The common metonymy — one 
encounters it in more than one lan- 
guage — of the tongue, the organ of 
speech, being used to mean the language 
articulated by means of that organ, ap- 
pears in the nine remaining occurrences of 
lisan in the singular. 

As to other important developments, the 
most interesting is surely Q_ 14:4: "And we 
have sent no messenger (q.v.) save with the 
tongue of his people that he might make 
all clear to them" (wa-ma arsalna min rasulin 
ilia bi-lisdni qawmihi li-yubayyina lahum). The 
first part of this sentence is a restrictive 
clause offered as the premise to an argu- 
ment whose conclusion constitutes a well 
known theological thesis: namely, that the 
Arabic of the Qur'an is itself the very lan- 
guage of Muhammad, that is to say, a 
hypothetical "dialect of Quraysh (q.v.)," 
hypothetical in the sense that it is not 
documented in an independent manner 
(see dialects). 

The second part of Q_ 14:4 is based on a 
common conception of language as an 
articulation of thought (tabyln). Thus, effi- 
cacy in preaching (see also Q_ 19:97 and 
44:58, yassarndhu bi-lisdnika, "now we 
have made it easy by your tongue"; see 
prophets and prophethood; warner; 
good news) is linked to a language viewed 
either as a commonly-spoken vernacular 
or as a hypothetically-constructed linguistic 
vehicle. According to the theological thesis 
mentioned above, the qur'anic language is 
indeed the vernacular of Quraysh. But for 



many Arabists, the Arabic of the Qur'an 
is very close, if not identical, to the pre- 
Islamic poetic koine, itself a hypothetical 
construct (see poets and poetry; lan- 
guage and style of the q_ur'an; form 
and structure of the qijr'an). Some 
other linguists turn towards a third hypoth- 
esis: the late homogenization of both lan- 
guage forms (for a general overview, see 
Jones, Language). The use of the second 
verbal form, bayyana, with an explicit object 
in q 14:4 (see Tabari, Tafsir, xvi, 616, for an 
example of classical commentary on this 
passage) suggests that mubin, as an active 
participle of the fourth verbal form, abana 
(see grammar AND THE q_ur'an), may be 
similarly understood. See, for example, 
Q_ 26:195, where lisan 'arabi mubin, "a clear 
Arabic tongue," can be understood as 
"an Arabic tongue that makes [all things] 
clear" (Tabari, Tafsir, xix, 112, for this sig- 
nification). But the opposition found in 
Q, 16:103 between a lisan qualified simply as 
ajamT and a lisan with the double qualifica- 
tion of 'arabi and mubin makes one under- 
stand the former qualifier as the antonym 
of the two latter ones. In other words, its 
possible translation as "barbarous" conveys 
the dual sense of non-Arabic ('ajami) and 
unclear (a jam). For the exegetes' debates 
on the meaning of ajamT, see Wansbrough 
(os, 98-9), who includes this notion of 
'arabi and mubin as functional equivalents. 

In the juxtaposition of terms found in 
Q_ 16:103, one notes a furtive slip from an 
objective state, the communicative function 
of any language, to a subjective state, the 
clarity bestowed only on Arabic. It is this 
shift of signification that supported the 
theological logo-centrism of the medieval 
period (for example, see Shafi'i, Risala, 
34-55; also Gilliot, Elt, chapters 3 and 4) 
and provided justification for the linguistic 
nationalism of the modern era (qawmiyya < 
qawm) and what the American linguist 

Ferguson has described as "myths about 
Arabic." See also illiteracy; inimita- 
bility; foreign vocabulary; arabs; 
arabic script. 

Pierre Larcher 

Primary: al-ShafTl, Muhammad b. Idrls, al- 
Risdla, ed. A.M. Shakir, Cairo 1939; TabarT, 
Tafsir, ed. Shakir. 

Secondary: Abd al-Baql; G.A. Ferguson, Myths 
about Arabic, in R.S. Harrell (ed.), Languages and 
linguistics monograph series, Georgetown 1959, 75-82 
(repr. in R.K. Belnap and N. Haeri [eds.], Struc- 
turalist studies in Arabic linguistics. Charles 
A. Ferguson's papers ig^-iggj, Leiden 1997, 
250-6); Gilliot, Elt; A.Jones, The language of 
the Qur'an, in K. Devenyi, T. Ivanyi and 
A. Shivtiel (eds.), Proceedings of the Colloquium 
on Arabic lexicology and lexicography (C.A.L.L.), 
Budapest 1993, 29-48; Wansbrough, os. 

Language and Style of the Qur'an 

The semantic field of "language" includes 
several triliteral Arabic roots: l-s-n (Dama- 
gham, Wujuh, ii, 200-1; see H. Jenssen, 
Arabic language, 132; see also language, 
concept of), k-l-m (Yahya b. Sallam, 
Tasanf 303-5; Damagham, Wujuh, ii, 
186-7), a ~ w ~U l-h-n (Khan, Die exegetischen 
Teile, 276, on Q_ 47: 30: "the burden of their 
talk," lahn al-qawl; Fuck, 'Arabiya, 133; Fr. 
trans. 202; Ullmann, Wa-hairu, 21-2). It 
should be noted that lugha in the sense of 
manner of speaking (Fr. parler, Ger. Rede- 
weise) is totally absent from the 
Qur'an — although the root l-gh-w is 
attested, but with the meanings of "vain 
conversation" (o 23:3), "to talk idly" 
(q_ 41:26), "idle talk" (q_ 19:62; see gossip), 
or to be "unintentional" in an oath 
(q_ 2:225; 5:89; Damagham, Wujuh, ii, 198; 
Ibn al-Jawzi, JVuzha, 531-2; see oaths). 

The Qur'an asserts of itself: "this is 
plain/clear Arabic tongue/speech/ 


language (lisdnun 'arabiyyun mubinun)" 
(q 16:103), or that it is "in plain/clear Ara- 
bic tongue/speech/language" (q 26:195). 
In any case, this was the meaning of these 
verses according to the exegetes (see 
medieval), and most translations have fol- 
lowed their lead, which, as will be dis- 
cussed below, is problematic. It should 
be noted that, in Arabic — as in 
English — the concept of "language" is 
multivalent, including both an oral and a 
written manifestation. As will be discussed 
below, the interplay between these two 
aspects of language in the formation of the 
qur'anic corpus is only imperfectly under- 
stood, a situation that leads to contested 
explanations for certain features of the 
qur'anic language (for more on this sub- 
ject, see orality). 

Various general positions on the language and style 

of the Qur'an 
There are many opposing points of view 
on the language and style of the Qur'an, as 
will appear through a selection of quota- 
tions taken from both Muslim and non- 
Muslim scholars (for reactions of Muslims 
through the ages, see below). The Muslim 
translator of the Qur'an, M. Pickthall 
(d. 1935), a British convert to Islam, 
described the Qur'an as an "inimitable 
symphony, the very sounds of which move 
men to tears and ecstasy" (Pickthall, vii). 
An earlier (non-Muslim) English translator 
of the Qur'an, G. Sale (d. 1736) thought 
that: "The style of the Koran is generally 
beautiful and fluent, especially where it 
imitates the prophetic manner and scrip- 
ture phrases. It is concise and often ob- 
scure, adorned with bold figures after the 
eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sen- 
tentious expressions, and in many places, 
especially when the majesty and attributes 
of God are described (see GOD AND His 
attributes), sublime and magnificent" 

{Preliminary discourse, 66). For the Austrian 
J. von Hammer-Purgstall (d. 1856): "The 
Koran is not only the law book of Islam 
(see law and the qur'an), but also a mas- 
terpiece of Arabic poetic art (see poetry 
and poets). Only the high magic of the 
language could give to the speech of 
Abdallah's son the stamp of the speech 
(q.v.) of God" (Die letzten vierzig Suren, 
25). For FJ. Steingass (d. 1903), the Qur'an 
is: "[■•■] A work, then, which calls forth so 
powerful and seemingly incompatible emo- 
tions even in the distant reader — distant 
as to time, and still more so as to mental 
development — a work which not only 
conquers the repugnance with which he 
may begin its perusal, but changes this 
adverse feeling into astonishment and 
admiration" (Hughes/Steingass, Qur'an, 
526-7). Another translator of the Qur'an, 
J. Berque (d. 1995), has tried to find a "dip- 
lomatic" solution in the face of the pecu- 
liar language and style of the Qur'an, 
speaking of its "interlacing structure," 
"symphonic effects" and "inordinating 
junctions" (jonctions demesurantes, Berque, 
Langages, 200-7; cf. id., Coran, 740: "a trian- 
gular speech"; id., Retire, 33-4), showing 
with these unusual qualifications the diffi- 
culty he had in expressing a consistently 
positive judgment, such as, "It is not neces- 
sary to be a Muslim to be sensitive to the 
remarkable beauty of this text, to its full- 
ness and universal value" (id., Retire, 129). 

On the other hand, R. Bell (d. 1952) 
remarked that, for a long time, occidental 
scholars called attention to "the grammati- 
cal unevennesses and interruption of sense 
which occur in the Qur'an" (Bell, Commen- 
tary, i, xx). Indeed the qur'anic scholar and 
Semitist Th. Noldeke (d. 1930) had already 
qualified the qur'anic language as: "drawl- 
ing, dull and prosaic" (Noldeke, Geschichte, 
107, on the suras of the third Meccan 
period; cf. id., De origine, 55; id., gq, i, 143, 
n. 2, written by Schwally: "Muhammad 


was at the very most a middle-size stylist"). 
For this German scholar, "while many 
parts of the Koran undoubtedly have con- 
siderable rhetorical power, even over an 
unbelieving reader, the book, aesthetically 
considered, is by no means a first-rate per- 
formance" (Noldeke, Koran, 34). In Strass- 
burg, he also wrote that "the sound linguis- 
tic sense of the Arabs (q.v.) almost entirely 
preserved them from imitating the odd- 
nesses and weaknesses of the qur'anic lan- 
guage" (Noldeke, Sprache, 22; Fr. trans. 
Remarques, 34). J. Barth (d. 1914) was struck 
by "the disruptions of the relations" in the 
suras (Storungen der ^usammenhdnge; Studien, 
113). The Iraqi English Semitist A. Min- 
gana (d. 1937) thought that the style of the 
Qur'an "suffers from the disabilities that 
always characterize a first attempt in a new 
literary language which is under the influ- 
ence of an older and more fixed literature" 
(Syriac influence, 78; this older literature 
being for him Syriac; see syriac and the 
qur'an). For the specialist in Arabic litera- 
ture and Sufism (see sufism AND THE 
qur'an), R.A. Nicholson (d. 1945), "The 
preposterous arrangment of the Koran 
[...] is mainly responsible for the opinion 
held by European readers that it is obscure, 
tiresome, uninteresting; a farrago of long- 
winded narratives (q.v.) and prosaic exhor- 
tations (q.v), quite unworthy to be named 
in the same breath with the Prophetical 
Books of the Old Testament" {Literary his- 
tory, 161; see form and structure of the 
qur'an; scripture and the qur'an). 

Other intellectuals waver between reac- 
tions of disgust and attraction in reading 
the Qur'an. In this category may be placed 
J.W. Goethe (d. 1832): "The Koran repeats 
itself from sura to sura [...] with all sort of 
amplifications, unbridled tautologies and 
repetitions which constitute the body of 
this sacred book, which, each time we turn 
to it, is repugnant, but it soon attracts, 
astounds, and in the end enforces rever- 

ence [...]. The style of the Koran, in 
accordance with its contents and aim is 
stern, grand, terrible, here and there truly 
sublime" (Goethe, J\oten, 33-5). 

In fact, there are two conceptions of the 
Qur'an. The first is theological and is 
proper to the world of Islam. It is a matter 
of beliefs, and because beliefs in the 
Islamic areas are obligatory, of dogmas 
other conception is anthropological, and 
because of the reason just mentioned, it is 
represented only outside of the world of 
Islam, although not only by non-Muslims: 
some Muslims, admittedly very few (and 
usually not living in Muslim countries), 
also maintain this conception of the 
Qur'an. For those who subscribe to the first 
conception, the Qur'an is the eternal 
speech of God (see word of god; 
eternity; createdness of the qur'an); 
for those who maintain the second posi- 
tion, the Qur'an is a text which has a his- 
tory. The same conceptual dichotomy is to 
be found concerning the language and the 
style of the Qur'an. To remove any doubt 
and misunderstanding on this issue we will 
try to deal with each of these conceptions 
independently, setting apart the Islamic 
theological thesis from the hypotheses of 
the Arabists. 

The theological thesis on the language of the Qur'an 
For clarity of exposition, we shall first 
introduce this thesis in a general and theo- 
retical way, followed by a more detailed 
development of some points contained 

The general formulation of the theological thesis 
By "theological thesis" is meant the posi- 
tion which imposed itself definitively in 
Islam around the fourth/tenth century, but 
which had already existed from the end of 
the second/eighth and the beginning of 
the third/ninth centuries, although not in 


such a formalized, theoretical format. It 
begins with the assertion: The language of 
the Qur'an is Arabic. But which Arabic 
(see dialects)? This question found an 
answer in Islamic theology, wherein a spe- 
cial way of interpreting the qur'anic text 
itself follows the qur'anic statement: "And 
we never sent a messenger (q.v.) save with 
the language/tongue of his folk, that he 
might make [the message] clear for them" 
(li-yubayyina lahum, Q_ 14:4). The exegetes 
conclude from this verse that the language 
of the Quran is that of Muhammad and 
his Companions (see companions of the 
prophet), understood as the dialect of 
Hijaz (see pre-islamic Arabia and the 
qur'an), and more particularly of the 
Quraysh (q.v). To that first identification, 
qur'anic Arabic = the HijazI dialect or the 
dialect of the Quraysh (al-lugha al-hijdziyya, 
lughat Quraysh), they added a second one: 
the language of the Quraysh = al-lugha al- 
fusha. This last expression is the Arabic de- 
nomination of what the Arabists them- 
selves call "classical Arabic." 

That identification originates less in the 
qur'anic text than in an Islamic conception 
of the Qur'an, as it appears in the work of 
the philologist and jurist Ibn Faris (d. 395/ 
1004). In the Qur'an itself lugha, with the 
meaning of language, or the feminine 
comparativeyzu/M do not occur, but only 
the masculine of this last form: "My 
brother Aaron (q.v.) is more eloquent than 
me in speech [or, "speaks better than me"; 
afsahu minni lisanan]" (q_ 28:34). This verse 
shows, however, that the fasdha 1) is above 
all, a quality of the one who speaks, 2) that 
there are degrees in it, and 3) that it is only 
metonymically transferred from the locutor 
to the language, in this case by the means 
of a specification (in Arabic grammar 
tamyiz; here lisanan indicates eloquence 
"concerning" language). 

We find an echo of the qur'anic formula- 
tion in the following affirmation of a 

scholar of Rayy quoted by Ibn Faris with a 
chain of authority (see hadith and the 
qjjr'an), Isma'll b. Abl 'Ubayd Allah 
Mu'awiya b. 'Ubayd Allah al-Ash'arl 
(d. first half third/ninth cent.), whose 
father was the vizier and secretary of the 
caliph al-Mahdl: "The Qurayshites are the 
most refined of the Arabs by their tongues 
and the purest by their language (afsah al- 
'arab alsinatan wa asjahum lughatan)." To that 
affirmation no justification is given, save a 
dogmatical one: "The reason is that God... 
has chosen and elected (see election) 
them among all the Arabs (dhalika anna 
llaha... khtdrahum minjami' al-'arab wa- 
stajahum), and among them he has chosen 
the prophet of mercy (q.v.), Muhammad" 
(Ibn Faris, al-Sdhibi, 52; Rabin, West- 
Arabian, 22-3). 

The metonymy is again seen at work in 
the book of the grammarian Ibn Jinn! 
(d. 392/1002; Rhasa'is, i, 260; see grammar 
and the q_ur'an) saying of the language 
of the Hijaz: "it is the purest and the oldest 
(al-lugha al-fushd al-qudma) ." Here, it is true, 
a third idea appears, linking superority to 
precedence or antiquity. It is already in 
Sibawayhi (d. 177/793 or : 8o/796; Kitab, 
ed. Derenbourg, ii, 37, I. 15; ed. Bulaq, ii, 
40; ed. Harun, hi, 278): "the Hijazi is the 
first and oldest language" (wa-l-hijaziyya 
hiya l-lugha l-ulci l-qudma; Levin, Sibawayhi's 
attitude, 215-6, and n. 61). Of course, this 
declaration could be a later interpolation. 
It is the qualification of a philologist, the 
counterpart of the concept of "the corrup- 
tion of language" (fasdd al-lugha): to say 
that language is subject to corruption is to 
aknowledge but also to condemn linguistic 
change, which is diachronic. Traditionally 
the linguistic superiority of the Quraysh 
has been seen as the consequence of their 
being at greatest remove from the non- 
Arabic speaking areas: "Therefore, the 
dialect [or, better, "manner of speaking," 
Fr. purler, Ger. Redeweise] of the Quraysh 



was the most correct and purest Arabic 
dialect (afsaha l-lughati l-'arabiyyati wa- 
asfaha), because the Quraysh were on all 
sides far removed from the lands of the 
non-Arabs" (Ibn Khaldun, 'Ibar, 1072; Eng. 
trans. Ibn Khaldfm-Rosenthal, iii, 343). 
But Ibn Faris himself {al-SdhibT, 52) consid- 
ers this superiority to be the product of the 
selection of the best elements of the differ- 
ent Arabic dialects, a selection made possi- 
ble by the fact that Mecca (q.v.) was the 
center of an inter-tribal pilgrimage (q.v.; 
we shall see the interpretation given by 
Kahle to this conception). 

The Qur'an on its own language and style. Does the 
Quran really say it is in "a clear Arabic tongue"? 
As the Qur'an is a very self-referential text 
(Wild, Mensch, 33), it has often been said 
that it was "somewhat self-conscious with 
respect to its language" ( Jenssen, Arabic 
language, 132), providing commentary on 
its own language, style, and perhaps ar- 
rangement. Support for this view is drawn, 
first of all, from the apparent qur'anic qua- 
lification of itself as being "plain/clear 
Arabic tongue/speech/language." 

It would appear, however, that most of 
the occurrences of lisan in the Qur'an refer 
to "tongue" as a vocal organ (Wansbrough, 
qs, 99; see also language, congept of), 
like q 39:28: "A lecture in Arabic, contain- 
ing no crookedness [ghayra dhi 'iwajin, with- 
out distortion)"; and in this case it can be 
related to a topos of prophetical communi- 
cation (see prophets and prophethood; 
revelation and inspiration), reflecting 
the speech difficulties associated with the 
calling of Moses (q.v.; Exodus 4:10-7): "O 
my lord, I am not eloquent, neither hereto- 
fore, nor since you have spoken unto your 
servant, but I am slow of speech, and of a 
slow tongue" (verse 10). The Qur'an, too, 
knows this story, as evidenced by q 20:27, 
wherein Moses says: "And loose a knot 
from my tongue" (cf. also q 28:34, "My 

brother Aaron is more eloquent than me in 
speech [afsahu minnl lisdnanj '," which is a 
reversal of Exodus 4:14-5: "Is not Aaron 
thy brother? I know that he can speak well 
[...]. And thou shalt speak unto him, and 
put words in his mouth and I will be with 
thy mouth [or: I will help you speak] , and 
with his mouth."). Such is the case also for 
q 19:97: "And we make it [this scripture] 
easy for your tongue (yassarndhu bi- 
lisdnika)." It should be noted that the same 
expression in q 44:58 has been translated 
by Pickthall, with no apparent reason for 
translating the two passages differently, as: 
"[...] easy in thy language." This theme 
becomes a refrain in q 54:17, 22, 40: "And 
in truth we have made the Qur'an easy to 
remember" (see memory). Such texts 
"could support the hypothesis that linguis- 
tic allusions in the Qur'an are not to the 
Arabic language but rather, to the task of 
prophetical communication" (Wans- 
brough, os, ibid.; cf. Robinson, Discovering, 


The Qur'an says not only that it is in 
Arabic or Arabic tongue/speech/language 
(lisan), but it seems also to declare that it is 
in a plain/clear (mubin) tongue/speech/ 
language: "We have revealed it, a lecture 
(qur'dnan) in Arabic" (q 12:2; 20:113); "We 
revealed it, a decisive utterance (hukman) in 
Arabic" (q 13:37); "a lecture in Arabic" 
(q 39:28; 41:3; 42:7; 43:3); "this is a con- 
firming scripture in the Arabic language" 
(lisdnan 'arabiyyan) (q 46:12); "in plain 
Arabic speech" (bi-lisanin 'arabiyyin mubinin) 
(q 26:195; cf. 16:103; see Rippin, Foreign 
vocabulary, 226). 

The reasons why the Qur'an insists on 
the quality and value of its own language 
seem to be polemical and apologetic (see 
argument for its Arabic character, first of 
all, should be put in relation with q 14:4: 
"We never sent a messenger save with the 
language/tongue of his folk (bi-lisdni 



qawmihi), that he might make [the mes- 
sage] clear for them." This declaration, by 
stressing the language of this messenger 
(Muhammad) and this folk (the Arabs), 
can be understood as a declaration of the 
ethnocentric nature of this prophetic 
mission, but also as a divine proof of its 
universality (Wansbrough, qs, 52-3, g8), 
challenging another sacred language, 
Hebrew (op. cit. 81), perhaps also Syriac, 
or more generally Aramaic (see 

But in stressing that it is in Arabic, the 
Quran answers also to accusations which 
were adressed to Muhammad during the 
Meccan period (see opposition to 
muhammad): "And we know well what they 
say: Only a man teaches him. The speech 
of whom they falsely hint (yulhiduna ilayhi) 
is outlandish (ajami), and this is clear 
Arabic speech" (q_ 16:103). The commenta- 
tors explain yulhiduna (Kufan reading: 
yalhaduna; TabarT, Tafsir, xiv, 180; see 
readings of the qjjr'an) by "to incline 
to, to become fond of" (Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 
487; Farra 1 , A'la'ani, ii, 113), which is the 
meaning of the Arabic lahada. But these 
explanations seem not to be convincing. 
Indeed, it has been shown elsewhere that 
the linguistic and social context to which 
this verse refers could be a Syriac one: the 
Arabic root l-h-d, being probably an adap- 
tation of the Syriac I'ez, "to speak enigmat- 
ically," "to allude to," like the Arabic root 
l-gh-z. (Luxenberg, Lesart, 87-91; Gilliot, 
Goran, § 6; see also informants). 

The contrast of ajami, often understood 
as barbarous or outlandish, with 'arabi/ 
Arabic, becomes very significant, if we 
consider Q_ 41:44: "And if we had ap- 
pointed it a lecture in a foreign tongue 
(qur'dnan ajamiyyan) they would assuredly 
have said: If only its verses (q.v.) were 
expounded (fussilat) [so that we might 
understand]? What! A foreign tongue and 
an Arab (a'jamiyyun wa-'arabiyyun)?" (or, in 

the rendition of Arberry: "If We had made 
it a barbarous Koran [...] Why are its signs 
(q.v.) not distinguished? What, barbarous 
and Arabic?"). Fussilat was undertood by 
an early exegete, al-Suddl (d. 128/745), as 
"clarified" {buyyinat, Tabarl, Tafsir, xxiv, 
127; Tha'labl, Tafsir, not quoting al-Suddl: 
"whose verses are clear; they reach us so 
that we understand it. We are a people of 
Arabs, we have nothing to do with non- 
Arabs f'ajamiyya]" ; cf. Muqatil, Tafsir, iii, 
746: "Why are its verses not expounded 
clearly in Arabic?"). 

The expression "In plain/clear Arabic 
speech/tongue (bi-lisanin 'arabiyyin mubinin)" 
(q_ 26:195; cf. 16:103) still needs more re- 
flection, because the translation given 
here is — like most translations of the 
phrase — misleading from the point of 
view of morphology, and consequently 
of semantics. Mubin is the active participle 
of the causative-factitive abana, which can 
be understood as: "making [things] clear." 
Such an understanding of that expression 
is suggested by Q_ 14:4, which utilizes the 
causative factitive bayyana: "And we never 
sent a messenger save with the language/ 
tongue of his folk, that he might make 
[the message] clear for them (li-yubayyina 

But the adjectival opposition found in 
Q_ 16:103 between a'jami on the one hand, 
and 'arabi and mubin, on the other, was 
understood by the exegetes as "barbarous," 
i.e. non-Arabic ('ajami) and indistinct 
(ajami), in contradistinction with clear/ 
pure Arabic (Wansbrough, QS, 98-9; see 
language, concept OF; for the opposing 
traditional view, variously expressed, i.e. 
"in clear Arabic/pure tongue," see Widen- 
gren, Apostle, 151-2, in relation to the ques- 
tion of a pre-Islamic Arabic translation of 
the Bible; Horovitz, KU, 75). 

The consequence, according to the theo- 
logians, is that the Qur'an must be in a 
"smooth, soft, and plain/distinct speech 



(sahl, layyin, wadih)": "In the Qur'an there 
is no unusual/obscure (gharlb) sound- 
complex (haif) from the manner of speak- 
ing (lugha) of the Quraysh, save three, 
because the speech (kalam) of the Quraysh 
is smooth, soft, and plain/distinct, and the 
speech of the [other] Arabs is uncivilized 
(vuahshi), unusual/obscure" (Abu l-'Izz 
Wasiti, d. 521/1127, al-Irshadji l-qira'at al- 
'ashr, quoted by Suyflti, Itqan, chap. 37, ed. 
Ibrahim, ii, 124). This dogma of the al- 
leged superiority of the Hijazi dialect did 
not have, in reality, great consequences in 
choosing among the various readings of 
the Qur'an. In fact, "the home dialect of 
the Prophet has not occupied a particular 
place" in the qur'anic readings (Beck, 
Arabiyya, 182), but, rather, the grammari- 
ans and exegetes tried to preserve a certain 
scientific autonomy in this respect (Gilliot, 
Precellence, 100; id., Elt, 135-64; 171-84). 
Some contemporary Muslim scholars have, 
for this reason, accused them of "distort- 
ing" the qur'anic readings, e.g. the book 
entitled "Defence of the readings transmit- 
ted via different channels against the exe- 
gete al-Tabarl" (Ansarl, Difa' 'an al-qird'at 
al-mutawdtira. . .). 

The superiority of the Arabic language and the 

excellence of the Arabic of the Qur'an 
The Muslim scholars of religious sci- 
qur'anic study) and the ancient Arab 
philologists have spared no effort in en- 
hancing the alleged superiority of the 
Arabic language over other languages: 
"Of all tongues, that of the Arabs is the 
richest and the most extensive in ways of 
expression (madhhaban) . Do we know any 
man except a prophet who apprehended 
all of it?" (Shaft 1 ! [d. 204/820], Risala, 42, 
no. i38/[modified] Eng. trans., 88; Fr. 
trans., 69; Ibn Faris, al-Sahibi, 40-7; Gold- 
ziher, Sprachgelehrsamkeit, hi, 207-11). 
The Kufan exegete, grammarian and 

jurist, al-Farra' (d. 207/822), explains the 
superiority of the speech of the Quraysh 
in a particular way, namely as based upon 
the pilgrimage and their outstanding taste 
and capacity of selection: "[His Active 
interlocutor saying] Sagacity and beauty 
came to them merely because the Arabs 
were accustomed to come to the sanctuary 
for hajj and 'umra, both their women and 
men. The women made the circuit round 
the House unveiled and performed the 
ceremonies with uncovered faces. So they 
selected them by sight and thought after 
of dignity and beauty. By this they gained 
superiority besides those qualities by which 
they were particularly distinguished. [al- 
Farra' answers] We said: In the same way 
they were accustomed to hear from the 
tribes of the Arabs their dialects; so they 
could choose from every dialect that which 
was the best in it. So their speech became 
elegant and nothing of the more vulgar 
forms of speech was mixed up with it" (a 
text of al-Farra' in Kahle, Geniza, 345; Eng. 
trans. Kahle, Arabic readers, 70). In a 
word, the Quraysh through their sagacity 
in choice were prepared to become the 
"chosen people of God" in language, that 
is Arabic. 

The Mu'tazilite theologian and man of 
letters, al-Jahiz (d. 255/867; see mu'tazilIs) 
is no less explicit on this subject, using the 
example of poetry whose "excellence is 
limited to the Arabs and to those who 
speak the tongue of the Arabs, and it is 
impossible that [Arabic] poetry should be 
translated and it cannot be conveyed [into 
another language]." He explains that, in 
translation, the meter, the rhyme, the 
rhythm, arrangement (nagm) and verse 
would be destroyed. Of course, everybody, 
including al-Jahiz, is familiar with the diffi- 
culty of translating poetry. But for this 
theologian only the Arabs have poetry in 
the sense of the Arabic term qasida (odes) 
and accord with its norms; his primary 



point is the superiority of the Arabic lan- 
guage as a presupposition for the excel- 
lence of the qur'anic Arabic (Jahiz, 
Hayawdn, i, 74-5; Gilliot, Elt, 86). We could, 
of course, continue to quote a number of 
philologists, exegetes and theologians on 
this matter drawn from all periods of 
Islamic history up to the present day; but 
these samples are sufficient to provide an 
insight into the essential features of this 
apologetic discourse. 

The "Challenge Verses" 
In the religious imaginaire on the language 
of the Qur'an, the Challenge Verses (aydt 
al-tahaddi: o_ 2:23; 10:38; 11:13; 17:88; 
52:33-4; see Wansbrough, gs, 79-82; Gil- 
liot, Elt, 84-6; Radscheit, Herausforderung; 
van Ess, to, iv, 607-8; see also provo- 
cation; inimitability) have also played a 
major role in the elaboration of a concep- 
tion of a lingua sacra. These verses continue 
to be an important theme of Muslim 
apologetics, although they might be better 
explained in the context of Jewish polem- 
ics. The objection of the adversaries of 
Muhammad here seems to have had noth- 
ing to do with language, and the answer of 
the Qur'an, "then bring a sura like unto 
it," also appears not to refer to language 
(see suras). Three of these verses are a 
response to the accusation of forgery (q.v.) 
against Muhammad: "He has invented 
it" (iftardhu, p_ 10:38; 11:13; taqawwalahu, 
o 52:33). The framework indicates a 
" 'rabbinical' test of prophethood" (Wans- 
brough, QS, 79): "Verily, though human- 
kind and the jinn (q.v.) should assemble to 
produce the like of this Qur'an, they could 
not..." (p_ 17: 88). The audience was not 
at all impressed by the product given by 
Muhammad, which they did not find par- 
ticularly coherent — in any case, not as 
coherent as the other revealed books 
(Muqiltil, TqfsTr, iii, 234; T aDar Ti TafsTi; xix, 
10, ad o_ 25:32; van Ess, TO, iv, 608; see 
book): "Why is the Qur'an not revealed 

unto him all at once? [It is revealed] thus 
that we may strengthen your heart (q.v.) 
therewith; and we have arranged it in 
right order" [wa-rattalndhu tartllan; Arberry: 
"better in exposition," o_ 25:32). 

But the same verbal noun (nomen verbi), 
tartil, is problematic (Paret, Kommentar, 492). 
Several interpretations have been given by 
ancient exegetes: to proceed in a leisurely 
manner, pronounce distinctly, to recite part 
after part (Tabarl, Tafslr, xxix, 126-7, ad 
Q_ 73:4; Lane, Lexicon, i, 1028). Besides, it 
can be understood elsewhere as recitation 
or cantilation: "and chant the Qur'an in 
measure" [wa-rattili l-qur'dna tartllan, Q_ 73:4; 
Arberry: "and chant the Koran very dis- 
tinctly"; Andrae, Ursprung, 192: "and recite 
the Koran in equal sections"). But this last 
passage has been also understood as "and 
make the Qur'an distinct," perhaps allud- 
ing to Muhammad "at the labour in com- 
position" (Bell, Origin, gj; id., Commentary, 
ii, 444). It could also refer to the style of 
the Qur'an: "the sense of the word [in 
Q_ 25:32] is not exactly known, but it is 
likely to refer to the rhyme, the existence 
of which cannot be denied" (Mingana, 
Qur'an, 545 b). 

The adversaries of Muhammad — but 
not only they — in fact, most of the 
Quraysh were not particularly impressed 
by the language or the content of his pre- 
dication: "muddled dreams (see dreams 
and sleep); nay, he has but invented it; 
nay, he is but a poet. Let him bring us a 
portent even as those of old [i.e. messen- 
gers] were sent [with portents]" (p_ 21:5; 
Blachere, Histoire, ii, 232). Despite the origi- 
nal auditors' apparent skepticism as to the 
excellence of the qur'anic language, Mus- 
lim exegetes, philologists, jurists and theo- 
logians (see theology and the qjjr'an) 
opened the door to an elaboration of 
sacral representations and mythical con- 
structions on the pre-eminence of the Ara- 
bic language and the supposed superiority 
and inimitability of the qur'anic language, 



sentiments which were not present expressis 
verbis in the Qur'an. 

The foreign words 
But Q_ 41:44 became also a locus classicus in 
qur'anic exegesis in the debate over the 
occurrence of foreign words in the Qur'an 
(in addition to Rippin, Foreign vocabulary, 
226, see Ibn al-jawzl, Funun, 186-93) an d, 
with q 16:103, on the informants of 
Muhammad (see Madigan, Self-image, 
199-200; see also informants). Some 
ancient exegetes had general pronounce- 
ments on the issue: according to the Kufan 
companion of Ibn Mas'ud, Abu Maysara 
al-Hamdanl (d. 63/682): "There are 
[expressions] in the Qur'an from every lan- 
guage (lisan)" (Ibn Abl Shayba, Musannaf 
[Kitdb 22. Fada'il al-Qur'an, bdb 7], vi, 121, 
no. 29953; Tabari, Tafsir, i, 14, no. 6/Eng. 
trans. Commentary, i, 13; SuyutI, Itqan, chap. 
38, ed. Ibrahim, ii, 126; id, Muhadhdhab, 
194, ed. al-Hashimi, 60-1). The same words 
are also attributed to the Khurasan! exe- 
gete al-Dahhak b. Muzahim (d. 105/723; 
Ibn Abl Shayba, ibid., no. 29952; SuyutI, 
Muhadhdhab, 194, ed. al-Hashimi, 61). Or, 
according to another Kufan, Sa'ld b. 
Jubayr (d. 95/714): "There is no language 
(lugha) on the earth which God has not 
revealed in the Qur'an. And he [Ibn Jubayr 
or somebody else in the chain] said: the 
name of Jibril (Gabriel, q.v.) is the ser- 
vant/man ('abd) of God, and the name 
of Mika'll (Michael, q.v.) is the small ser- 
vant/man of God" (see for this etymology 
Tabari, Tafsir, ii, 389-92, ad q 2:C)']:jabr 
means 'abd, servant/man). Wansbrough 
(followed, unfortunately, by Gilliot, Elt, 
103), writes that the tradition of Ibn Jubayr 
was transmitted by Muqatil (os, 218). It is 
indeed in Muqatil [Tafsir, ii, 606), but it was 
added with a chain of authority by one of 
the transmitters of this book, 'Abdallah b. 
Thabit al-TawwazI (d. 308/920; Gilliot, 
Muqatil, 41; see hadith and the chjr'an). 
Or, according to Wahb b. Munabbih 

(d. 110/728): "There are only a few lan- 
guages which are not represented in some 
way in the Qur'an" (SuyutI, Itqan, chap. 38, 
ed. Ibrahim, ii, 135; id., Muhadhdhab, 213, 
ed. al-Hashimi, 106-7; id., Dun, i, 335, 
1. 16-7, ad q 2: 260, quoted from the 
qur'anic commentary of Abu Bakr b. al- 
Mundhir, d. 318/930). But the tradition of 
Ibn Jubayr is also presented as one of the 
occasions of the revelation (q.v.) of the 
verse under discussion, q 41:44 (Tabari, 
Tafsir, xxiv, 127; Tha'labl, Tafsir, ad q 41:44), 
because of the word a'jami, linked by 
ancient exegetes to the theme of the infor- 
mants (Muqatil, Tafsir, iii, 745-6; Tha'labl, 
Tafsir, quoting Muqatil; see Gilliot, Infor- 
mants, 513). That which "is not of the 
speech of the Arabs" was not, however, to 
everybody's taste, and some ancient philo- 
logists who had extreme arabophile senti- 
ments had hard opinions on this issue and 
condemned others: "some knowledgeable 
(nahanr) [philologists] sometimes introduce 
non-Arabic words as pure Arabic out of 
their desire to mislead people and make 
them fail" (al-Khalll b. Ahmad, d. 175/791, 
Kitdb al- 'Ayn, i, 53, quoted by Talmon, 
Arabic grammar, 122). 

All this entirely contradicts the quasi- 
dogma of the "purity" of the Arabic of the 
Qur'an, but a theologian can always find a 
solution to a seeming contradiction, 
namely by transforming its object into a 
quality or a "miracle" (q.v.): "Other books 
were revealed only in the language of the 
nation to whom they were adressed, while 
the Qur'an contains words from all Arabic 
dialects, and from Greek, Persian, and 
Ethiopic besides" (Ibn al-Naqlb, d. 698/ 
1298, in SuyutI, Itqan, chap. 38, ed. 
Ibrahim, ii, 127; Gilliot, Elt, 101; Rabin, 
West-Arabian, ig). It is possible that a tradi- 
tion attributed to Muhammad and trans- 
mitted from Ibn Mas'ud had an influence 
here on the theological representation of 
the superiority of the Qur'an over the 
other revealed books: "The first book was 


revealed from a single door, in a single 
manner {half, or, "genre, sound-complex"; 
this last, in other contexts, according to 
Rabin, West-Arabian, 9), but the Quran was 
revealed in seven manners..." (Tabarl, 
Tafsir, ed. Shakir, i, 68, no. 67; Gilliot, Les 
sept "lectures." II, 56; id., Langue, 91-2). 

The problems of qur'dnic grammar 
Up until the present day, special books 
have been written by Muslims on this issue, 
particularly with the aim of finding a solu- 
tion to the following problem: "What the 
grammarians forbid, although it occurs in 
the Qur'an" (Hassun, al-JVahw l-qur'ani, 
12-114; Ansari, JVagariyya; see also grammar 
and THE qjjr'an), or related issues, like 
"The defence of the Quran against the 
grammarians and the Orientalists" (Ansari, 
al-Difa' 'an al-Qur'an...). 

The mythical narratives on the superiority of 

Interpretrations of the passages of the 
Qur'an that understand the language in a 
sacral and theological orientation, com- 
bined with ethnocentric Arab conceptions, 
have contributed to the elaboration of a 
hierarchy of languages, at the summit of 
which stands Arabic. Even if these ideas 
existed before, they were only systematic- 
ally collected during the second half of the 
second/eighth and the third/ninth centu- 
ries. The constitution of an empire and the 
construction of a mythical conception of a 
common "perfect" language go together. 

We find a statement about this hierarchy 
by the Gordoban jurist and historian Abd 
al-Malik b. Hablb (d. 238/852), for whom 
the languages of the "prophets" were Ara- 
bic, Syriac and Hebrew: All the sons of 
Israel (q.v; i.e. Jacob, q.v.) spoke Hebrew 
(see also children of Israel); the first 
whom God allowed to speak it was Isaac 
(q.v.). Syriac was the language of five 
prophets: Idrls (q.v.), Noah (q.v), Abraham 

(q.v.), Lot (q.v.) and Jonah (q.v.). Twelve of 
them spoke Arabic: Adam (see ADAM AND 
eve), Seth, Hud (q.v), Salih (q.v.), Ishmael 
(q.v.), Shu'ayb (q.v), al-Khidr (see khadir/ 
khidr), "the three in Siirat Ya Sin" 
(q_ 36:14), Jonah, Khalid b. Sinan al-AbsI, 
and Muhammad. According to Abd al- 
Malik b. Hablb, Adam first spoke Arabic, 
but later this language was distorted and 
changed into Syriac (Abd al-Malik b. 
Hablb, Ta'nkh, 27-8; Suyuti, Muzhir, i, 
30-1/Eng. trans. Czapkiewicz, Views, 66-7; 
Goldziher, Grammar, 44-5; Loucel, Origine. 
IV, 167-8). 

This last opinion is supported by a tradi- 
tion attributed to an individual often cited 
on such matters, the cousin and Compan- 
ion of Muhammad (who was ca. 10 years 
old when Muhammad died), namely Ibn 
Abbas (d. 69/688): "His [i.e. Adam's] lan- 
guage in paradise (q.v.) was Arabic, but 
when he disobeyed his lord (q.v), God de- 
prived him of Arabic, and he spoke Syriac. 
God, however, restored him to his grace 
(taba 'alayhi), and he gave him back Ara- 
bic" (Ibn Asakir, Ta'nkh, vii, 407; Suyuti, 
Muzhir, i, 30; Loucel, Origine. IV, 167). It 
has been said that Adam "spoke 700,000 
languages, of which the best was Arabic" 
(ThaTabl, Tafsir, ad Q_ 55:4, from an anony- 
mous source; Goldziher, Grammar, 45, quot- 
ing Baghawl, Ma'alim, presently still only in 
manuscript form; but the figure "700" in 
Baghawl, Ma'alim, iv, 266 has to be cor- 
rected!). The exegetes (ahl al-ta'wll) explain 
the diversity of languages in the following 
way: God taught all the languages to 
Adam, but when his sons were scattered, 
each of them spoke one language, then 
each group that issued from them spoke 
its own language (Wahidl, Wasit, i, 116; 
Nlsaburl, Tafsir, i, 220; Abu H a yyan, Bahr, 
i, 145, ad c. 2:31). 

These endeavors of the Muslim exegetes 
and theologians express a mimetic concur- 
rence with trends found among the Jews 



(see jews and Judaism) and the Syrians; 
for the latter, however, Adam spoke 
Syriac/Aramaic (Grunbaum, Beitrdge, 63). 
Other sources refer to seventy two, seventy 
or eighty languages in the world (Gold- 
ziher, Grammar, 45-6; Loucel, Origine. IV, 
169-70: only for 72). 

The influence of the theological repre- 
sentations appears in the desperate at- 
tempts of the jurists to give sense to a set of 
contradictory, or disparate, ideas or facts: 
at the beginning there was a single lan- 
guage which God taught to Adam (see 
knowledge and learning), and it was, of 
course, the best one, Arabic (because the 
Quran is in Arabic); there are several lan- 
guages; the Arabic of the Qur'an is the 
best Arabic; the Prophet was an Arab, and 
he belonged to the tribe of Quraysh (see 
tribes and glans). One of the solutions 
found, with recourse to legends and argu- 
mentation, was the following: at the begin- 
ning God taught a single language to 
humankind; the other languages were 
taught only later to the offspring of Noah, 
after the flood (according to Abu Mansur 
Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadl, d. 429/1037); 
according to Ibn Abbas, the first to speak 
Arabic was Ishmael, which is interpreted 
as "pure Arabic," meaning the Arabic of 
the Quraysh, "because the Arabic of 
Qahtan and Himyar [South Arabic] was 
spoken before Ishmael" (Zarkashl, Bahr, ii, 
16; Suyuti, Muzhir, i, 27, quoting him; 
Goldziher, Grammar, 44). 

These mythical narratives on language 
which are quoted in different genres of lit- 
erature (exegesis, historiography, adab, etc.), 
and, even up to the present, appear in pop- 
ular books, play a major role in the linguis- 
tic imaginaire of the Muslims. They are as 
important as the arguments of the schol- 
ars, who, moreover, also quote them to 
confirm their line of argument and to 
establish it definitively in the minds of 
their readers (for the origin of speech 

according to the grammarian Ibn JinnI, 
see Versteegh, Arabic linguistic tradition, 
100-14; on al-Suyutl's [d. 911/1505] presen- 
tation, see A. Czapkiewicz, Views, 64-6). 

The "creation" of a Prophet against his competitors 
(poets, soothsayers, orators, story-tellers, etc.) 
The strategy of Muhammad and of the 
first generations of Muslim scholars con- 
cerning poetry and poets had a reason 
other than the traditional tribal defense of 
honor (q. v.; l ird; Nahshall, Mumti :', 220-7: 
How the Arabs protected themselves and 
defended their honor with poetry; Jacob, 
Beduinenleben, 176-8; Fares, Honneur, passim), 
even if Muhammad saw himself more and 
more as a supra-tribal chief and was con- 
cerned to defend his own reputation. This 
other reason was a linguistically theologi- 
cal one. 

Not only had the Qur'an to be sharply 
distinguished from poetry (Hirschberg, 
Jiidische und christliche Lehren, 27-32; Gilliot, 
Poete, 378-9, § in, 116) and the rhymed 
prose (q.v.; saj') of the Arab soothsayers 
(q.v.), but its superiority to poetry had to be 
demonstrated, an idea which was not obvi- 
ous. Before the Arab poets, diviners (see 
divination; foretelling) and orators, 
Muhammad had to "create" himself with 
the help of his supporters and to be "cre- 
ated" by the first generations of Muslim 
scholars. The Prophet whose language was 
excellent, "the most Arab of the Arabs," is 
depicted as, after his birth, having been 
placed in the care of another in order to be 
nursed (see lagtation; wet-nursing; 
fosterage) and brought up in clans whose 
Arabic was the "purest" (see also sira and 
the q_ur'an). According to the Companion 
Abu Sa'id al-Khudrl, Muhammad is sup- 
posed to have said: "I am the Prophet who 
does not lie (q.v), I am the son of Abd al- 
Muttalib, I am the one who speaks the best 
Arabic (or "the most Arab of the Arabs," 
a'rab al-'Arab). The Quraysh has procreated 


me, I grew up in the tribe of Sa'd b. Bakr 
[his nurse Halima was of that clan] ! [So 
you should not ask] from where this my 
manner of speaking comes (fa-anna ya'tinl 
l-lahnu)" (, Kabir, vi, 35-6, no. 
5437; Ibn al-Sarraj al-Shantarinl, TanbTh, 
121-2; Gilliot, Poete, 385). Or: "Of you, I 
am the one whose Arabic is the best (ana 
a'rabukum), I am from the Quraysh, ray lan- 
guage is that of the Sa'd b. Bakr" (Ibn 
Sa'd, Tabaqdt, i, 113; cf. Suyuti, Khasd'is, i, 
63); "I am of the Arabs whose language is 
the most pure and understandable (and 
afsah al-'Arab)." This long translation is the 
nearest to the meaning offasih at this time: 
whose Arabic is "rein, verstdndlich, " in oppo- 
sition to the foreign languages, but also to 
the Arabic of the Arabs of the "frontiers" 
(Vollers, in his review of Noldeke [£ur 
Grammatikj ', 126). Or: "I am the most elo- 
quent creature" (Suyuti, Miujtir, i, 209-13; 
Wansbrough, qs, 93-4). Or, more expressly 
in relation to the Qur'an: "Love the Arabs 
for three reasons, because I am Arab, the 
Qur'an is Arabic, and the speech of the 
people of paradise is Arabic" (Ibn al- 
Anbarl, Iddh, i, 21; Kahle, Qur'an, 174, 
no. 28; 173, no. 22; cf. Muqatil b. Sulayman 
declaring: "The speech [kalam] of the 
inhabitants of the sky is Arabic"; Ibn 
al-Sarraj al-Shantarinl, Tanbih, 77. This 
declaration was included in a tradition at- 
tributed to Muhammad which continues: 
"and their language when they are stand- 
ing before God in the last judgment [q.v.]"; 
Kahle, Qur'an, 173-4, no - 2 5)- 

It should be noticed that these declara- 
tions of (or sayings attributed to) Muham- 
mad on the best language pertain to the 
categories of the pride (a,v.;fakhr) of the 
ancient Arabs and their poetry, and that 
they can be extended to other fields, for in- 
stance in that other saying of Muhammad 
transmitted from the Companion Anas 
b. Malik: "I was made superior to people 
with four qualities: generosity (see gift- 

giving), bravery (see courage), frequency 
of sexual intercourse (kathrat al-jima'), great 
violence (shiddat al-batsh)" (Abu Bakr al- 
Isma'lll, Atu'jam, ii, 621-2, no. 251; Ibn 
'Asakir, Ta'rikh, viii, 69-70). These tradi- 
tional tribal values of the ancient Arabs, 
and above all the quality of the language, 
were transformed into proofs of prophecy. 

This was and still is a necessary presup- 
position to persuade the Arabs and the 
non-Arab Muslims of the so-called superi- 
ority and inimitability of the qur'anic lan- 
guage, style and content (Gilliot, Ell, 73-93, 
but also chaps, four and five). Through 
lack of written Arabic texts at their dis- 
Arabia), they could only lean on the "the- 
saurus of the Arabs" (diwdn al- 'Arab), 
poetry, according to a celebrated declara- 
tion attributed again to Ibn 'Abbas (Ibn al- 
Anbari, Iddh, i, gg-101, no. 118, 120; taken 
up by Suyuti, Itqan, chap. 36, 281, ed. 
Ibrahim, ii, 67; Wansbrough, qs, 217; 
Gilliot, Poete, 374-5; cf. Goldziher, Richtun- 
gen, 70). This ancient poetry became a 
benediction from the divine favor (see 
blessing; grace) because the "best lan- 
guage," Arabic, was destined to prepare 
the coming of a still "more excellent" lan- 
guage, tongue and speech, the language of 
the Qur'an (Abu Hatim al-Razi, ^ina, i, 
92), the lingua linguarum, scilicet Verbum Dei! 

But these scholars were conscious that the 
poet had been a dangerous competitor to 
the Prophet of Islam and to the text he 
presented as revelation (Gilliot, Poete, 
331-2; 380-8). Indeed, according to the 
Basran philologist, also a specialist in an- 
cient poetry and qur'anic readings, Abu 
'Amr b. al-'Ala' (d. 154/771), in a statement 
transmitted by his pupil, the Basran philol- 
ogist al-Asma'i (d. 213/828): "The poets 
occupied, among the Arabs (bedouins, see 
bedouin) during the Age of Ignorance 
(q.v.), the rank occupied by prophets in the 
nations [which have received a revelation] ; 


then the sedentaries entered in relation 
with them (khalatahum) and were taken on 
by poetry (iktasabu bi-l-shi'ri), and the poets 
lost their rank. And after that came Islam 
and the revelation of the Qur'an, and 
poetry became vilified and qualified as 
falsehood (bi-tahjin al-shi'r wa-takdhibihi) . As 
a consequence, the poets lost their rank 
even further. At last they used flattery and 
fawning (al-malaq wa-l-tadarru'), and people 
disdained them" (Abu Hatim al-Razi, ^ina, 
i, 95; cf. Nahshall, Mumti', 25). This ideo- 
logical break between the "Age of 
Ignorance" — in another epistemological 
context the "savage thought" of C. Levi- 
Strauss — and Islam will lead Muslim 
scholars to a paradox: on the one hand, 
pre-Islamic poets and poetry are dispar- 
aged, but on the other hand their lan- 
guage, although it is, from their point of 
view, less sublime than the language of the 
Qur'an, is extraordinarily praised because 
the verses of these poets are considered to 
be the best, sometimes the only evidence 
that can be quoted as support (shawahid) 
for argumentation in the sciences of lan- 
guage (Baghdad!, Khizdna, i, 5-17/Fr. trans. 
Gilliot, Citations, 297-316). A certain nos- 
talgia may be seen behind the laudatory 
break which al-AsmaT traces between 
"savage thought" on the one hand and 
"culture" — here, Islam — on the other 
when he declares: "Poetry is harsh (nakid); 
therefore it is strong and easy in evil (see 
GOOD AND evil), but if it is used in good, it 
becomes weak. For instance, Hassan b. 
Thabit was one of the best poets (fuhul al- 
shu'ard') in the Age of Ignorance, but when 
Islam came, his poetry was dropped (saqata 
shi'ruhu)" (Ibn al-Athlr, Usd, ii, 6, 1. 17-18; 
Goldziher, Alte und neue Poesie, 136; with 
some difference in Ibn Qutayba, al-Shi'r, 
170, 1. 9-11). But al-Asma'i, like the other 
philologists, collectors of poetry, jurists, 
exegetes, etc., is "at the borders of the 
orality (q.v.) to which he wishes to put an 

end [...]. The 'dlim [scholar] establishes a 
civilization of literacy and of its ways of 
thinking. As the builder of a culture he 
wants to control the relations between writ- 
ten science and knowledge which is orally 
transmitted" (Bencheikh, Essai, II). 

But before poetry came to be controlled 
by philologists who were also jurists and 
specialists in the Qur'an, traditions were 
employed to create a "united" language, 
or, better, the imaginary model of such a 
language, which had to be, more or less, in 
accordance with the "qur'anic model." 
These prophetic, or alleged prophetic, tra- 
ditions had to be recalled, produced, or 
coined, against or in favor of poetry, giving 
a certain status to poets and poetry, so that 
they would not be competitors to the 
Prophet and to the book he had delivered. 
Ancient poetry was necessary to explain, 
justify and enhance the alleged pre- 
eminence of the qur'anic language; but it 
had also to be put in its "proper place," so 
that the Qur'an should not be compared 
with human productions. 

The philologists and theologians, in ar- 
ranging and harmonizing the different and 
even contradictory traditions which circu- 
lated about the Arabic of the Qur'an, the 
"eloquence" of the Prophet and of the 
Arabs — traditions whose enormous num- 
bers, variety, contradictions and repetitions 
make the reader's head swim, so that one is 
tempted simply to believe them and stick to 
the reasoning of the theologians — have 
established the enduring conception of a 
lingua sacra. Not only believers, but also 
many Orientalists in their presentations of 
the Arabic and qur'anic language have 
been influenced by the power of this 

The hypotheses of the Arabists 
A gulf lies between the theological thesis 
and the approach of a linguist, as it al- 
ready appears in the following declaration 


of one of the founders of the Arabists' 
school, EL. Fleischer (d. 1888): "The ques- 
tion for us is not: What is the purest, the 
most beautiful and correct Arabic, but 
what is Arabic in general?" (Uber ara- 
bische Lexicographic, 5). 

What constitutes the strength of the theo- 
logical thesis for believers is precisely what 
represents its weakness for the critical 
scholar: It is based only on the qur'anic 
text and upon conviction, without any veri- 
fication of another nature. The extant (and 
scanty) epigraphic material (see epigraphy 
and THE qjjr'an) that evidences a lan- 
guage close to classical Arabic, insofar as 
its graphemes and the hazards of deci- 
phering them allow, comes exclusively from 
northern Arabia (see ARABIC script; 
orthography). More precisely, it is from 
areas that were under the control of the 
Ghassan and the Lakhm, considered to 
be Arabs whose "linguistic habit was not 
perfect (fa-lam takun lughatuhum tdmmat al- 
malaka)" "because they had contact with 
non- Arabs (bi-mukhalatat al-a'ajim)" (Ibn 
Khaldun, 'Ibar, 1072/Eng. trans. Ibn 
Khaldun-Rosenthal, iii, 343). 

Moreover, from the data preserved by the 
Arab grammarians and compiled by Rabin 
{West-Arabian, passim), it appears that pre- 
Islamic Arabic was heterogenous, but that 
a regional east-west differentiation could 
be seen in it (for a detailed list of the fea- 
tures, above all morphological and syntac- 
tic, see Blachere, Histoire, i, 70-5; Versteegh, 
Arabic, 41-6). Now, what the Arabs call al- 
lugha al-fusha and the Arabists term classi- 
cal Arabic coincides with neither eastern 
nor western Arabic, although — taken 
as a whole — it is closer to the eastern 

The different arabist hypotheses have 
their origin in the contradiction between 
the theological thesis and these data. These 
hypotheses can be reduced to two: one 
weak, the other strong. Moreover, they 

have in common the presupposition of a 
diglossic situation in ancient Arabia: i.e. 
the coexistence of, on the one hand, the 
various dialects of the Arab tribes, and, on 
the other, a common language (which, 
among other things, was the vehicle of 
poetry, and for that reason, has been 
termed poetic koine). Poetic koine pertains to 
the ancient Arabic linguistic type, whereas 
the dialects should be, if not entirely at 
least partly, of the neo-Arabic type. The 
difference between both is the presence of 
i'rab (case and mood endings) in the com- 
mon language, its absence in the dialects. 

But the Arabists do not agree on the ori- 
gin of this koine. For some — who think in 
terms of the Greek koine, the basis of 
which is Attic Greek — it has a geographic 
origin: according to this hypothesis, this 
shared language began as an inter-tribal or 
super-tribal language, at the point of 
encounter of the two dialectical areas of 
Arabia, that is to say in central or north- 
eastern Arabia. For others — who consider 
it along the lines of the Homeric Greek 
model — it is a Kunstsprache, an artificial 
language of great antiquity, without any 
connection to the linguistic reality. The 
Arabists also do not agree on the interpre- 
tation of i'rab. For some, it is syntactic, 
even if they recognize that its functionality 
is weak, not to say non-existent (see the 
debate between Blau, Synthetic Character, 
and Corriente, Functional yield; id., Again 
on the functional yield). For others it is 
linked to the constraints of prosody and 
rhyme in an oral-formulaic poetry (Zwet- 
tler, Classical Arabic poetry). 

In this context, the weak hypothesis is 
that of the majority of Arabists. For them 
the qur'anic Arabic is, save for some 
"Hijazi" peculiarities, basically the same as 
the Arabic of pre-Islamic poetry; hence 
the qualification of "poetic and qur'anic 
koine," sometimes given to that language, 
and which is considered to be the basis of 



classical Arabic (Blachere, Histoire, i, 8a: 
"koine coranico-poetique"). 

The strong hypothesis is originally that of 
Vollers (d. 1909). He concludes that the 
Quran was first delivered by Muhammad 
in the vernacular of Mecca (q.v.), a west 
Arabian speech missing, among other fea- 
tures, the i'rab (Vollers, Volkssprache, 169; 
Zwettler, Oral tradition, 117-8, with discus- 
sion of this thesis; Versteegh, A rabic, 40-1), 
before it was later rewritten in the common 
language of poetry (Vollers, Volkssprache, 
175-85). For Vollers this language, though it 
is the basis of the literary classical lan- 
guage, is primarily an eastern Arabic 
speech, fitted, among other features, with 
i'rab. More than the question of the i'rab, 
that of the "glottal stop" (hamza, Vollers, 
Volkssprache, 83-97) b es t summarizes the 
hypothesis of Vollers. It is said that the 
inhabitants of the Hijaz were character- 
ized by the loss of the glottal stop (takhjif 
al-hamza), contrary to the other Arabs 
who used the glottal stop (tahqiq al-hamza) . 
And we know that the qur'anic orthogra- 
phy attests the addition of the hamza, a 
mark of the realization of the glottal 

The hypothesis of Vollers was taken up 
again by P.E. Kahle (d. 1964), but in a 
modified form (he does not maintain that 
the Qur'an was rewritten). He admits, 
without any further explanatory discussion, 
that the consonantal ductus (see CODICES 
chjr'an; mushaf), traditionally attributed 
to the caliph 'Uthman (q.v.) represents the 
Arabic spoken in Mecca (Kahle, Geniza, 
142), but for him the "readings" (qird'dt, 
variae lectiones) of that ductus express the 
influence of the poetic language. He based 
his hypothesis on a great number of tradi- 
tions, more than 120, quoted in the Tarn-hid 
Jima'rifat al-tajwid of al-Hasan b. Muham- 
mad al-Malikl (d. 438/1046), in which 
people are exhorted to recite the Qur'an, 

respecting the i'rab (Kahle, Qur'an, 171-9). 
Since Kahle's contributions appeared, 
older works containing the traditions upon 
which he based his theory have been made 
available (e.g. Abu 'Ubayd, Fadd'il, 208-10, 
and passim; Ibn Abl Shayba, Musannaf, 
[K'itdb 22. Fadd'il al-Qur'dn, bab 1], vi, 117-8, 
nos. 29903-19). 

As Kahle remarks: "The recommenda- 
tion to read the Koran with these vocalic 
endings presupposes that they were often 
not read" (Geniza, 145 n. 1). As some of 
these traditions were also known by the 
grammarian al-Farra' (d. 207/822; Kahle, 
Geniza, 345-6 [Ar. text], 143-6 [Eng. trans.]; 
we should also add that some of the tradi- 
tions were also known by Abu 'Ubayd al- 
Qasim b. Sallam [d. 224/838] and by Ibn 
Abl Shayba [d. 235/849]), this reveals the 
existence of a problem in the second/ 
eighth century. 

Two interpretations of that issue are pos- 
sible. The first, a minimalist understand- 
ing, is that there was a slackening in the 
recitation of the Qur'an (q.v.) because of 
the non-Arab converts: in this case, these 
traditions are a call to order, reprimands, 
to stop a prevalent "lax reading" and to 
enforce an "exact reading" (Kahle, Geniza, 
147). But the other possibility is that the 
grammarians and readers (qurrd', qara'a) 
want to enforce on the community a read- 
ing and recitation consonant with an ideal 
Arabic that they have just established by 
the means of a large collection of data 
gathered from the bedouins and from 
poetry. Kahle inclines to this second inter- 
pretation, putting forward the concept he 
encountered in al-Farra 1 (and which is also 
to be found in Ibn Faris; see the translation 
of the text of al-Farra' above), who pres- 
ents the Arabic of the Hijaz, and thus of 
the Qur'an, as a selection from the best of 
the various dialects (Kahle, Qur'an, 
179-82; id., Geniza, 145-6; id., Arabic read- 
ers, 69-70). To him the presentation of 



al-Farra' is an acknowledgment of the in- 
fluence of poetic language on that of the 
Qur'an, although he "antedated the influ- 
ence of Bedouin poetry to an earlier 
period" (Kahle, Geniza, 146). Indeed, when 
it is released from its subjective elements, 
such a conception amounts to saying that 
the qur'anic language borrows features 
from different dialects (Ft. purlers), in other 
words that it is an inter-language. 

Whereas the hypothesis of Vollers caused 
a scandal in Muslim circles and prompted 
a debate among the Arabists (Geyer, 
Review; and notably Noldeke, Einige 
Bemerkungen; id., Der Koran und die 
'Arabija), it seems that the hypothesis of 
Kahle has not really garnered much atten- 
tion, with the notable exception of J. Fiick 
(d. 1974), who rejected it (Fiick, 'Arabrpa, 
3-4, n. 4/Fr. trans., 4-5, n. 4; see also 
Rabin, Beginnings, 25-9). 

Now, however, things are changing with 
the progress in Arabic studies of sociolin- 
guistics and of the history of linguistics. 
The Arabists today have gone beyond the 
diglossic representation of Arabic and are 
in favor of a polyglossic conception of Ar- 
abic and of a continuum, even of an inher- 
ent variation. In doing so they take up 
again, in some way, the conception that the 
most ancient Arab grammarians, notably 
Sibawayhi, had of Arabic. These last did 
not understand the lughdt ("dialects") as dis- 
crete varieties, but only as variants, good or 
bad, of one and the same language. In this 
context, the various "readings" (qira'at) of 
the Qur'an can be seen as the reflection of 
this linguistic variation. J. Owens has 
shown recently that the practice of the 
"major assimilation" (al-idgham al-kablr, i.e. 
a consonantal assimilation between words) 
traditionally linked with the reader Abu 
'Amr (d. 154/770), did not imply linguisti- 
cally the loss of the inflexional ending, but 
only the absence of short vowels, inflex- 
ional or not, at the ending. This means that 
" [Voller's] assumption that there was a 

koranic variant without case ending re- 
ceives plausible support from the koranic 
reading tradition itself" (Owens, Idgam 
al-kablr, 504). 

Lastly, it should be noticed that none of 
the hypotheses of the Arabists challenges 
the following two assertions of the Mus- 
lim tradition: 1) the Qur'an transmits the 
predication of the one Muhammad, and 
2) there exists an 'Uthmanic codex. This 
discussion of qur'anic language would be 
enlarged if, on the one hand, the hypothe- 
sis of Wansbrough (os) — i.e. that there 
was a slower elaboration of the qur'anic 
text than is traditionally supposed — were 
taken into consideration, and, on the other, 
if, besides the "small variation" (different 
readings of the same ductus), the "great 
variation" (the existence of a non- 
'Uthmanic codex) were also taken into 
account (Gilliot, Coran, § 29; id. Recon- 
struction, § 15). 

From language to style 
The link between qur'anic language and the 
linguistic style of the Qur'an itself is the 
notion of bayan, and it is not by chance 
that the founder of Babism (see baha'is), 
'All Muhammad (d. 1850) wrote a book 
intended to replace the Qur'an, entitled al- 
Bayan (Bausani, Bab). Bayan, a verbal noun 
(nomen verbi: distinctness; Fr. lefait d'etre dis- 
tinct), occurs only three times in the Qur'an 
(O. 55-4) 75 :i 9! 3 :i 38; Bell, Commentary, ii, 
329; Paret, Kommentar, 465; Blachere, ii, 
74-5), e.g. Q_ 55:3-4: "He has created man. 
He has taught him utterance" (al-bayana; 
or, "the capacity of clear exposition"; 
Arberry: "the Explanation"; Blachere: 
"PExpose"). Moreover, tibyan (exposition, 
explanation) occurs once (o_ 16:89), and the 
active participle (nomen agentis), mubln, twice 
qualifies the "Arabic tongue" ilisdn 'arabi, 
Q_ 16:103; 26:195; see LANGUAGE, CONCEPT 
of). But twelve times mubln qualifies 
"book" (kitab, o_ 5:15; 6:59; 10:61; 11:6; 12:1; 
15:1; 26:2; 27:1, 75; 28:2; 34:3; 44:2), seven 



times it modifies baldgh (o_ 5:92; 16:35, 82; 
24:54; 29:18; 36:17; 64:12), and twice 
qur'an (q_ 15:1; 36:29). In this context, mubin 
can be interpreted as the active participle 
(nomen agentis) of the fourth (causative) ver- 
bal form, abana, used with an implicit 
object, simply a synonym of the second 
verbal form, bayyana, meaning "making 
[things] distinct/clear." But abana can 
also be seen as an implicitly reflexive 
causative, and in this case mubin is inter- 
preted as "showing [itself] distinct/clear," 
as suggested by the explicit reflexive in 
Q_ 37:117: "al-kitdb al-mustabin" (the clear 
scripture). The high number of the occur- 
rences of the root b-y-n and its derivatives 
indicates that bayan is a characteristic of 

Developed at length by ShafiT (d. 204/ 
820), the idea is that the Qur'an says things 
clearly; jurist that he was, he demonstrates 
this theory beginning with the legal obliga- 
TION). But this is said with the underlying 
conviction that the Qur'an expresses itself 
clearly because it is in Arabic (we should 
remember here that "Qur'an" is qualified 
six times as "Arabic"; Shafi'l, Risdla, 
20-40/Eng. trans. 67-80/Fr. trans. 53-68; 
Yahia, Contribution, 361-410; 368-71: on 
Jahiz; cf. BaqillanI, Intisdr, 256-71; Gilliot, 
Elt, 73; id., Parcours, 92-6). The central 
character of bayan in matters of style is 
attested by the fact that the phrase 'ilm al- 
bayan (see von Grunebaum, Bayan) com- 
petes with 'ilm al-balagha for denoting Ara- 
bic rhetoric (which is not an oratorical art, 
but the art of all manners of speaking: po- 
etical, oratorical, epistolary, etc.). But, for 
the most part — as opposed to 'ilm. 
al-ma'dm — it designates the part of 'ilm al- 
balagha which deals with the expression of 
the ma'na i.e. the latg, in other words, stylis- 
tics. It should be noticed that the dogma of 
the inimitability of the Qur'an was linked 
with the theme (almost an article of faith) 

of the "eloquency" (baldgha) of Muham- 
mad, which is in accordance with the theo- 
logical representations on the "purity" of 
the language of Quraysh, and naturally 
the consummate "purity" of the language 
of the "chosen/purified (al-mustafd)" one, 
Muhammad, their kinsman, as seen 
above (see Rafi'l [d. 1937], "The inimitabil- 
ity of the Qur'an and the prophetic elo- 
quence" [in Arabic; I'jaz al-Qur'an wa-l- 
baldgha al-nabawiyya], 277-342; on this 
book, see Boullata, Rhetorical interpreta- 
tion, 148). 

The theological thesis on the style of the Qur'an 
The theological thesis about the style of 
the Qur'an, however, goes far beyond the 
proclamation of the alleged clarity of the 
qur'anic discourse, this clarity itself being 
linked to the language in which it is formu- 
lated. Its core is certainly the dogma of the 
i'jaz al-Qur'an (van Ess, to, iv, 609-11; see 
also inimitability). Two points should be 
emphasized here. First, the dogma of the 
Qur'an 's inimitability is to the style of the 
Qur'an what the equation "language of 
the Qur'an = the speech of the Quraysh = 
al-lugha al-Jusha" is to its language; i.e. it, 
too, is the result of the intersection of a 
textual element (the so-called Challenge 
Verses) and of the Islamic conception of 
the Qur'an as the speech of God (kaldm 
Allah). Secondly, the "inimitability" is 
bound to the stylistic order through the 
clear theological affirmation of the 
Mu'tazilite theologian and philologist al- 
Rummanl (d. 384/994) on the baldgha of 
the Qur'an: "Its highest [rank is such that 
it] incapacitates (mu'fiz) [anyone who 
attempts to reach it] ; it is the baldgha of the 
Qur'an" {.Nukat, in RummanI et al., Rasa'il, 
75). From this point of view, most books on 
Islamic rhetoric function as the "maidser- 
vant of theology" (rhetorica ancilla theologiae), 
as illustrated by the title of the book by 
the great rhetorician 'Abd al-Qahir al- 
Jurjani (d. 471/1078): "The proofs of the 



inimitability [of the Qur'an]" (Dala'il al- 
i'jaz; Abu Deeb, al-Jurjdnl; Boullata, Rhe- 
torical interpretation, 146-7). 

The literary structure and arrangement 
or construction (nagm, a root which does 
not occur in the Qur'an; see Abu Deeb, 
Al-Jurjdm, 24-38; for Fakhr al-Dln al-Razi: 
Lagarde, Index, no. 2564; Gilliot, Parcours, 
100-6) of the Qur'an is far from being self- 
evident. For this reason, Muslim scholars 
have not only dealt with this theme, but 
have composed works entitled Nagm al- 
Qiir'an (for this genre and a list of such 
books, see Audebert, L'inimitabilite, 58-9, 
193-4; see a l so LITERARY STRUGTURES OF 
THE qjjr'an). But the theological debate 
concerning the core of its "inimitability" 
and the question of its createdness or un- 
createdness also played a role in the genesis 
of this genre (van Ess, TG, iv, 112; many 
Arabic studies on this theme have been 
published: e.g. on Zamakhshari: Jundl, al- 
Napn al-qur'dni). Eventually, entire qur'anic 
commentaries came to contain this word in 
their title, e.g. the Karramite of Nishapur, 
al-Asimi (Abu Muhammad Ahmad b. 
Muhammad b. All, d. 450/1058), com- 
posed the Kitab al-Mabam li-nagm al-ma'dm, 
whose introduction has been published 
( Jeffery, Muqaddimas, 5-20; for the identifi- 
cation of the author, see Gilliot, Theologie 
musulmane, 182-3). This genre was also 
related to the principle of correspondence 
(mundsaba; see Suyuti, Itqdn, chap. 62, ed. 
Ibrahim, iii, 369-89 [Mundsabat al-dydt wa-l- 
suwar]; id., Mu'tarak, i, 54-74; id., Tahbu; 
371-7; for Fakhr al-Dln al-Razi: Lagarde, 
Index, no. 2479; Gilliot, Parcours, 106-9) 
between the suras and between the verses 
(see also al-Suyutl's special book entitled 
"The symmetry of the pearls. On the cor- 
respondence of the suras," which he seems 
to have compiled from his larger book 
"The secrets of revelation" [Asrdr al-tanzil]; 
see Suyuti, Tandsuq, 53-4). The qur'anic 
commentary of Burhan al-Dln Abu 

1-Hasan Ibrahim al-Biqa'l (d. 885/1480) 
combines in his title the words "arrange- 
ment/construction" and "correspondence" 
(nazm, tandsub): "The string of pearls. On 
the correspondence of the verses and 
suras" (Nazm al-durar fi tandsub al-dydt wa- 
l-suwar) . 

Generally speaking, all of the elements of 
style to be found in all great literature are 
seen as unique and almost special to the 
Qur'an because of the dogma of its inimi- 
tability. Even its weaknesses are viewed as 
wonderful, if not miraculous (see the intro- 
duction of T aDa rf) Tafsir, ed. Shakir, i, 
8-12/Eng. trans, in Commentary, i, 8-12; 
Gilliot, Elt, 73-8). 

The positions of the Arabists on the style of the 
Qiir 'an 

Some positions until recently 
Read with eyes other than those of faith, 
qur'anic style is generally not assessed as 
being particularly clear, and "much of the 
text... is... far from being as mubin ("clear") 
as the Qur'an claims to be!" (Puin, Obser- 
vations, 107; cf. Hirschfeld, New researches, 
6-7). Moreover, it does not arouse the gen- 
eral non-Muslim audience to such a degree 
of "enthusiam" (Sfar, Coran, 117-8, 100-1) as 
that of the Muslims who are alleged to 
have fallen down dead upon hearing its 
recitation (Wiesmiiller, Die vom Koran getdten; 
cf. Kermani, Gott ist schon, chap. 4, "Das 
Wunder," 233-314; id., Aesthetic reception). 

To understand this reaction of the non- 
believer, the Qur'an should first be charac- 
terized as "speech" (Fr. discours) as opposed 
to such comparable "texts," i.e. the He- 
brew Bible and the Gospels (q.v.; see also 
torah). To proceed so, it is possible to 
refer to a noteworthy opposition found 
within the Arabic linguistic tradition, that 
of two types of speech (kaldm), the khabar 
and the inshd', which is equivalent to the 
Austinian categories of "constative " as 



opposed to "performative utterances" 
(Austin, How to do things with words). Accord- 
ing to these categories, the Hebrew Bible 
and the Gospels present themselves as 
khabars, (narratives on the creation [q.v.] of 
the world, the history of the Jewish people, 
the life of Jesus), even if these texts, 
whether considered as historical or mythic, 
are also edifying. On the other hand, the 
Qur'an presents itself as non-narrative 
speech (inshd'; cf. the traditional appella- 
tion: paranesis): the narratives (q.v.) it 
contains, often incomplete, are a type of 
argumentation by example (see nature as 
signs; myths and legends in the qur'an). 

The lack of a narrative thread and the 
repetitions in the Qur'an, when they do 
not provoke a negative reaction, compel 
the specialist to search for another organi- 
zational schema of the text, beyond that 
which is immediately apparent. The need 
for an alternative pattern behind the order- 
ing of the text appears above all in the 
problem of the structure of the suras. Of 
course, the ancient Muslim scholars, being 
experts in the Arabic language, were well 
aware of the organizational infelicities in 
the qur'anic text, but as men of faith they 
had to underscore the "miraculous" organ- 
ization (nagm) of the entire text, and to find 
rhetorical devices to resolve each problem- 
atic issue, e.g. the iqtisds, the "refrain" (Fr. 
reprise), when the passage was too allusive, 
incomplete or even truncated. In this case 
of the "refrain," the exegete had to refer to 
another verse in the same sura or in an- 
other, from which the truncated passage is 
supposed to have been "taken" (ma'khudh 
mm), or where it is "told accurately" (Ibn 
Faris, al-Sdhibi, 239; Suyuti, Itqdn, ed. 
Ibrahim, hi, 302), e.g. "and we gave him his 
reward in the world, and lo! in the here- 
after (see eschatology) he verily is among 
the righteous" (q_ 29:27), has to be under- 
stood [as taken] from "But whoso comes 
unto him a believer, having done good 

works (see GOOD deeds), for such are the 
good stations" (q_ 20:75; see reward and 
punishment). This phenomenon could 
perhaps be related to a variety of the 

For reasons which have been put forth 
above, it is sacrilegious in a Muslim milieu 
to compare the Qur'an to poetry, but it is 
evident that the language of the Qur'an 
can be studied by a linguist in the same 
way as poetic language. The poetics of 
Jakobson (Closing statements), is one 
example of how the expertise of a linguist 
may be applied to the Qur'an, especially 
from the point of view of "parallelism," a 
central concept of that poetics. 

In view of the position it has taken with 
respect to the Qur'an, the religious thought 
of Islam has tended to impose a concep- 
tion that became more radical over time. 
According to this conception, the Qur'an is 
an original work that owes nothing to an 
external influence, be it local or foreign. 
The polemics against the orators (khatibs) 
and soothsayers (kdhins), as well as those 
against the appearance of loanwords in the 
Qur'an and those surrounding the mean- 
ing of the adjective ummi(q.v.), as it is 
applied to Muhammad in the Qur'an 
(Q. 7 :i 57> r 5^; "illiterate" messenger as 
opposed to messenger "of the commu- 
nity"; see illiteracy), should be inter- 
preted in this context. Concerning this last- 
mentioned debate, A.Jones maintains that 
"[T]he notion that umml means 'illiterate' 
is neither early nor accurate. It can only 
mean 'of the umma' " (Oral, 58, n. 5). Con- 
trary to the theological views concerning 
the style of the Qur'an, Jones has shown, 
despite the scarcity of preserved materials, 
that the qur'anic style owes much to previ- 
ous Arabic styles. These previous styles can 
be summarized in the following four cate- 
gories: the style of the soothsayer (Jones, 
Language, 33-7: kdhin utterances), of the 
orator (Jones, Language, 38-41: khatib 



utterances), of the story-teller (Jones, Lan- 
guage, 41-2: qciss), of the "written docu- 
mentary style" in the Medinan material 
(Jones, Language, 42-4: a comparison 
between a part of the Constitution of 
Medina and Q_ 2:158, 196). In support of 
this thesis of Jones, the following declara- 
tion attributed to Muhammad can be 
quoted: "This poetry is rhymed expression 
of the speech of the Arabs (saj'min kalam 
al-'Arab). Thanks to it, what the beggar 
asks for is given to him, anger is tamed, 
and people convene in their assemblies of 
deliberation (nadihim)" (Subki, Tabaqat, i, 
224; Goldziher, Higa'-Poesie, 59). Jones 
would argue that Muhammad knew well 
the efficacy of rhymed prose, and for that 
reason he used it in the Qur'an. 

Finally, Jones provides two very helpful 
visual representations of the registers of 
Arabic at the rise of Islam (Jones, Oral, 
57). Although practically nothing survives 
of these registers, he sketches the relation- 
ships between — and among — the liter- 
ary prose registers, on the one hand (poets, 
soothsayers and preachers), and the dia- 
lects of the people, on the other. These 
charts are useful for conceptualizing the 
place of the Qur'an within the linguistic 
streams of pre-Islamic Arabia (see also 

The question of the rhymed prose (saj'J 
in the Qur'an still needs further research, 
because, as noticed a long time ago, 
Semitic literature has a great liking for it, 
and, as seen above, Muhammad knew its 
effects very well: it "strikes the minds 
through its allusions, echoes, assonances 
and rhymes" (Grunbaum, Beitrage, 186). 
Later Muslim rhetoricians distinguished 
three or four types of rhymed prose in the 
Qur'an: 1) al-mutarraf (touched at the ex- 
tremity), words having a different prosodic 
measure (wazn) at the end of the elements 
of the phrase, but similar final letters: 
p_ 7 i:i 3"4 (waqdran vs. atwaran); 2) al- 

mutawazi (parallel), with similar prosodic 
measure, i.e. the same number of letters, 
and the same final letters (al-wazn wa-l- 
wari): p_ 88:13-4 (marfi'a vs. mawdii'a); 3) al- 
muwazana (cadence), final words with simi- 
lar prosodic measure, but different 
endings: o_ 88:15-6 (masfufa vs. mabthutha); 
4) al-mumathala (similarity), wherein all the 
words have corresponding prosodic meas- 
ure in each member, but different endings: 
Q_ 37:117-8 (Ibn Abi 1-Isba', Badl\ 108-9; 
Razi, Mihaya, 142-3; Ibn al-Naqlb, Aluqad- 
dima, 471-5; Nuwayri, Nihaya, vii, 103-5; 
Garcin de Tassy, Rhetorique, 154-8; Mehren, 
Rhetorik, 167-8). In the best examples of the 
genre, each of the members (here fawasil, 
pi. of jasila, "dividers") have the same mea- 
sure: o_ 56:28-9, "f7 sidrin makhdudin/wa- 
talhin mandudin (Among thornless lote- 
trees/And clustered plantains)." The 
second or third member can, however, be 
a little longer than the previous one 
(p_ 69:30-3). But for the same rhetoricians, 
the contrary is not permitted, save when 
the difference is tiny (p_ 105:1-2). For them 
the most beautiful rhymed prose is that 
whose members have only a few words, 
from two to ten; if otherwise, it is consid- 
ered to be "drawling," as p_ 8:43-4 (Meh- 
ren, Rhetorik, 166-7; on ' ne dividers in the 
Qur'an, from the traditional Muslim point 
of view, see HasnawT, al-Fdsilaji l-Qur'an). 

There are still other valuable points of 
view and theses on the style of the Qur'an 
which have not been presented here (for 
some discussion of these, see inimitabil- 
ity). Some examples are the discussions on 
the literary features and rhetorical devices 
(see Sammud, al-Tajkir al-balaghl, 33-46, 
and passim; see also literature and the 
qjjr'an; literary structures of the 
qjjr'an), and especially the interesting 
studies of A. Neuwirth on the relationship 
between liturgy and canonization of the 
text, "the structurally definable verse 
groups," contextuality, etc. (Neuwirth, 



Einige Bermerkungen; id., Vom Rezita- 
tionstext/Fr. trans. Du texte de recitation; 
see also her article FORM AND structure 

The ancient Christian or Sjriac connection 
Some scholars (unfortunately, too few) have 
drawn attention to the importance of the 
Aramaic or Syriac substratum in the for- 
mation of the Quran, basing their hypo- 
theses on the fact that Syro- Aramaic or 
Syriac was the language of written com- 
munication in the Near East from the 2nd 
to the 7th centuries c.E. and was also a 
liturgical language. The stylistic idiosyn- 
crasies of the Quran did not escape Th. 
Nbldeke (Noldeke, Sprache/Fr. trans. critiques). In addition to his obser- 
vations on the Syriac loanwords in the 
Qiir'an, which others, prior to him, had 
noted, A. Mingana noticed that the 
qur'anic style "suffers from the disabilities 
that always characterize a first attempt in a 
new literary language which is under the 
influence of an older and more fixed litera- 
ture," and that "its author had to contend 
with immense difficulties" (Mingana, 
Syriac influence, 78). But his observations 
led him to a hypothesis that is the opposite 
of the "credo" of Noldeke which, until 
today, has been prevalent among most 
western scholars of Islam. This "credo" of 
Noldeke is that, in spite of its "drawling, 
dull and prosaic" style (Noldeke, Geschichte, 
107), the Arabic of the Qiir'an is "classical 
Arabic." In his research, Mingana 
observed and emphasized the Syriac influ- 
ences on the phraseology of the Qiir'an, 
and placed them under six distinct head- 
ings: proper names, religious terms, com- 
mon words, orthography, construction of 
sentences and foreign historical references 
(see also foreign vocabulary). Unfortu- 
nately, his remarks, although referred to by 
some scholars, were not taken into general 
account for two reasons: First, Mingana, 

too occupied with other works on Syriac, 
had no time to develop his hypothesis fur- 
ther. (His argument was further under- 
mined by the fact that the material he had 
gathered in his article was not very impor- 
tant.) Secondly, the "dogma" of the Islami- 
cists (Islamwissenchaftler, islamologues) on the 
"classicism" of the qur'anic Arabic contin- 
ued and still continues to impose itself as 
self-evident proof, in spite of numerous 
objections to their own thesis expressed by 
the supporters of the alleged al-'arabiyya al- 
fusha of the Qur'an. 

Without being particularly influenced by 
Mingana's article and having other con- 
cerns than this scholar, the German liberal 
Protestant theologian and Semitist 
G. Liiling wrote an important study which 
has also been overlooked and ignored (Ger. 
totgeschwiegen) by Islamicists and Arabists. 
This study, Uber den Ur-Qur'an ("On the 
primitive Qur'an"), has recently been 
translated into English under the title A 
challenge to Islam for reformation, with the sug- 
gestive subtitle, "The rediscovery and reli- 
able reconstruction of a comprehensive 
pre-Islamic Christian hymnal hidden in the 
Koran under earliest Islamic reinterpreta- 
tion." The point of departure is not the 
Qur'an, but Liiling's own scholarly orienta- 
tion defined as promoting an "emphasis 
directed at self-criticism against the falsifi- 
cation of Christianity by its Hellenization 
resulting in the dogma of the trinity [sic, 
with a lowercase "t"] [...], as well as 
against the falsification of the history of 
Judaism" (Challenge, lxiii, a passage not 
present in the German original). The the- 
ses of Liiling on the Qur'an are as follows: 
1) About one-third of the present-day 
qur'anic text contains as a hidden ground- 
layer an originally pre-Islamic Christian 
text. 2) The transmitted qur'anic text con- 
tains four different layers, given here 
chronologically: the oldest, the texts of a 
pre-Islamic Christian strophic hymnody; 



the texts of the new Islamic interpretation; 
historically parallel to the second layer is 
the original purely Islamic material, which 
is to be attributed to Muhammad (about 
two-thirds of the whole Qur'an); and, 
finally, the texts of the post-Muhammadan 
editors of the Qur'an. 3) The transmitted 
Islamic qur'anic text is the result of several 
successive editorial revisions. 4) The pres- 
ence of the successive layers in the qur'anic 
text can be confirmed by material in Mus- 
lim tradition (Gilliot, Deux etudes, 22-4; 
Ibn Rawandi, Pre-Islamic Christian 
strophic, 655-68). Of course, the theses of 
Liiling should be discussed, and not simply 
ignored, as has been the case until now (for 
more details on this work, see the reviews 
of Rodinson, Gilliot and Ibn Rawandi. For 
a second book of Liiling, Die Wiederentdeck- 
ung des Propheten Muhammad, see the reviews 
of Gilliot and Ibn Rawandi). 

Recently, another Semitist scholar, Ch. 
Luxenberg, has taken up Mingana's thesis 
in his work on the Syriac influence on the 
Qur'an and outlined the heuristic clearly. 
Beginning with those passages that are 
unclear to western commentators, the 
method runs as follows: First, check if 
there is a plausible explanation in qur'anic 
exegesis, above all that of al-Tabarl (d. 310/ 
923), possibly overlooked by western schol- 
ars. If this does not resolve the problem, 
then check whether a classical Arabic dic- 
tionary, primarily Ibn Manzur's (d. 711/ 
1311) Lisan al-'Arab, records a meaning un- 
known to T arjarl an d his earlier sources. If 
this turns up nothing, check if the Arabic 
expression has a homonymous root in Syr- 
iac, with a different meaning that fits the 
context. In many cases, Luxenberg found 
that the Syriac word with its meaning 
makes more sense than the Arabic term 
employed by the Qur'an. It is to be noted 
that these first steps of the heuristic do not 
alter the consonantal text of the Cairene 
edition of the Qur'an. If, however, these 

steps do not avail, he recommends chang- 
ing one or more diacritical marks to see if 
that results in an Arabic expression that 
makes more sense. Luxenberg found that 
many instances of problematic lexemes 
may be shown to be misreadings of one 
consonant for another. If this method does 
not produce results, then the investigator 
should change one or several diacritical 
points and then check if there is a homo- 
nymous Syriac root with a plausible mean- 
ing. If there is still no solution, he checks to 
see if the Arabic is a caique of a Syriac 
expression. Caiques may be of two kinds: 
morphological and semantic. A morpho- 
logical caique is a borrowing that preserves 
the structure of the source word but uses 
the morphemes of the target language. A 
semantic caique assigns the borrowed 
meaning to a word that did not have the 
meaning previously, but which is otherwise 
synonymous with the source word (Luxen- 
berg, Lesart, 10-15; Phenix and Horn, 
Review, § 12-4; Gilliot, Langue, § 4). 

Of course, Luxenberg's work must be dis- 
cussed by Semitists and Islamicists, and 
poses other complicated problems, e.g. on 
the history of the redaction of the Qur'an. 
But some of his theses do appear convinc- 
ing, at least to the present writers. For 
instance, Q 108 (Surat al-Kawthar), a text 
which has little meaning for a normal 
reader, and which is also a crux interpretum 
for the Islamic exegetes, has been convinc- 
ingly deciphered by Luxenberg. Behind it 
can be found the well-known passage of 
1 Peter 5:8-9: "Be sensible, watch, because 
your adversary the devil (q.v.) walks about 
seeking someone he may devour, whom 
you should firmly resist in the faith" (Lux- 
enberg, Lesart, 269-76). We could mention 
also Luxenberg's treament of o 96 (op. cit., 
276-85). But his dealing with Q_ 44:54 and 
Q_ 52:20, concerning the supposed "virgins 
of paradise" (houris, q.v.) has already 
struck a number of those who have read 



this book. Instead of these mythic crea- 
tures "whom neither man nor jinn (q.v.) 
has deflowered before them" (o 55:56; Bell, 
Commentary, ii, 551), or "whom neither man 
nor jinni will have touched before them" 
(Pickthall), are the grapes/fruits of para- 
dise "that neither man nor jinn have 
defiled before them": "Darin [befinden 
sich] herabhangende [pfliickreife] Friichte, 
die weder Mensch noch Genius vor ihnen 
je bepfleckt hat" (Luxenberg, Lesart, 248-51; 
also discussed in the following reviews of 
Luxenberg's work: Nabielek, Weintrauben 
statt Jungffauen, 72; Gilliot, Langue, § 4; 
Phenix and Horn, Review, § 30-4). 

In support of the thesis of Luxenberg we 
could refer to the informants (q.v.) of 
Muhammad in Mecca, some of whom, 
according to the Islamic tradition, read the 
scripture or books, or knew Jewish or 
Christian scriptures. There is also the fact 
that the secretary of Muhammad, Zayd b. 
Thabit, certainly knew Aramaic or Syriac 
before Muhammad's emigration (q.v.) to 
Yathrib (Medina, q.v.). In a well-known 
Muslim tradition, with many versions, 
Muhammad asks Zayd b. Thabit to learn 
the Hebrew and/or Aramaic/Syriac 
script (see Lecker, Zayd b. Thabit, 267; 
Gilliot, Goran, § 9-12). The hypothesis has 
been expressed according to which these 
traditions proceed to a situation reversal: 
the Jew Zayd b. Thabit already knew 
Hebrew and/or Aramaic/Syriac script; 
this, however, was embarrassing for 
Muhammad or for the first or second gen- 
eration of Muslims because it could be 
deduced, as in the case of the informants 
of Muhammad, that the Prophet had bor- 
rowed religious knowledge from his secre- 
tary, and consequently from the Jewish or 
Christian scriptures. So the origin of 
Zayd's literary knowledge (see literacy) 
may have come from an initiative, on the 
part of Muhammad, to suppress these alle- 
gations (Gilliot, Langue, § 4). But the fol- 

lowing text of the Mu'tazilite theologian of 
Baghdad, Abu 1-Qasim al-Balkhl (al-Ka'bl, 
d. 319/931), which seems a confirmation of 
our hypothesis of a reversal of the actual 
situation, has recently become available: 

I [Ka'bl], concerning that issue, asked peo- 
ple well-versed in the science of the life of 
the Prophet {ahl al-'ilm bi-l-sira, see sTra 
and THE qur'an), among whom were Ibn 
Abl 1-Zinad, Muhammad b. Salih (d. 252/ 
866) and Abdallah b. JaTar (probably Ibn 
al-Ward, d. 351/962) who impugned that 
firmly, saying: How could somebody have 
taught writing to Zayd, who had learned it 
before the messenger of God came to 
[Medina]? Indeed, there were more people 
who could write in Medina than in Mecca. 
In reality when Islam came to Mecca, 
there were already about ten who could 
read, and when it was the turn of Medina, 
there were already twenty in it, among 
whom was Zayd b. Thabit, who wrote Ara- 
bic and Hebrew [•••]" (Abu 1-Qasim al- 
Balkhi [al-Ka'bl], Qabul al-akhbar, i, 202; 
Gilliot, Goran, § 12). 

Without his realizing it, Luxenberg's work 
falls within the tradition and genre of the 
readings (qira'at) of the Qur'an. It be- 
comes still more obvious if we distinguish 
between "the small variation" (various 
readings of the same ductus) and "the 
great variation" (variations of the ductus, 
i.e. non-"'Uthmanic" codices), on the one 
hand, and "a greater variation" (an Ara- 
bic/Aramaic transliteration of the ductus), 
on the other hand. The method of Luxen- 
berg applied to passages of the Qur'an 
which are particularly obscure cannot be 
brushed aside by the mere repetition of the 
Noldeke/Spitaler thesis, or, as some would 
say, dogma (see Spitaler, Review of Fuck, 
'Arabiya). It must be examined seriously. 
From a linguistic point of view the under- 
taking of Luxenberg is one of the most 



interesting. It will provoke in some Islamic 
circles the same emotion as did the hypoth- 
esis of Vollers formerly, because it amounts 
to seeing in the Qur'an a kind of palimp- 
sest. Such hypotheses, and the reactions 
they generate, push scholarship on the lan- 
guage and style of the Qur'an continually 
to examine and question its acknowledged 
(and implicit) premises. 

Claude Gilliot and Pierre Larcher 

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r 35 


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Handschriften, Koln 1996; S. Wild, Mensch, Prophet 
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Jahrhunderts und das Menschenbild der Moderne, 
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Yahia, La contribution de ITmam as-Sdfi'i a la 
methodologie juridique de I'islam sunnite, These de 
doctorat, Paris 2003; M. Zwettler, Classical 
Arabic poetry between folk and oral literature, in 
Jaos 96 (1976), 198-212; id., A Mantic manifesto. 
The sura of "The Poets" and the qur'anic foun- 
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The oral tradition of classical Arabic poetry, Colum- 
bus, OH 1978, 97-188. 

Last Day see eschatology; apocalypse; 



Last Judgment 

God's final assessment of humankind. The 
subject of the last judgment (yawm al-din, 
yawm al-qiydma) is one of the most impor- 
tant themes in the Qur'an. It appears in 
many forms, especially in the first Meccan 
suras (see chronology and the qur'an), 
which are dominated by the idea of the 
nearing day of resurrection [yawm al- 
qiydma, see resurrection) when all crea- 
tures, including jinn (q.v.) and animals 
(see animal life), must be judged (see 

Belief in the last judgment, with the con- 
comitant belief in paradise (q.v.; al-janna) 
for those who performed good deeds (q.v.) 
and in hell (jahannam, see HELL AND 
hellfire) for those who did not believe in 
God and did evil (see good and evil; evil 
deeds), became one of "the pillars of 
faith" (arkdn al-imdn, cf. o 4:136; see faith; 
belief and unbelief), as these were called 
by later Muslim sources. Many suras indi- 
cate that those who trust in God and in the 
day of resurrection are considered to be 
believers (q_ 2:62, 126, 177; 3:114; 4:162; 
5:69; 9:18) and those who refute these 
tenets are unbelievers, or those who have 
gone "astray" (q.v; Q_ 4:136), and Muslims 
must fight them (q_ 9:29; see jihad; 
fighting; war). The hadith literature 
adds material to emphasize the impor- 
tance, in Islam, of belief in the resurrec- 
tion (al-qiydma, al-Bayhaqi, Shu'ab al-imdn, 
ii, 5-72; see hadith and the q_ur'an). 

Certain Western researchers suppose 
(Seale, Arab's concern, 90-1) that Muham- 
mad tried, at the beginning of his proph- 
ecy, to convince his audience that there was 
going to be a day of resurrection. Consid- 
ering their reaction (o 75:3-4; 79:10-1) to 
this concept, Muhammad then warned 
them that there was going to be a day of 
judgment (q_ 44:40). This line of thinking 
also maintains that the Meccans' refutation 


of Muhammad's doctrine of resurrection 
and a day of reckoning — and their ten- 
dency to ridicule these issues — may 
explain the abundance of references to 
these themes in the Quran, as well as the 
conflation of yawm al-qiydma andyawm al- 
din. There is reason to believe that such 
qur'anic abundance, supported by a flux of 
interpretations and hadiths elaborating the 
details of the last judgment, may have led 
P. Casanova to the following explanation 
for Muhammad's failure to designate a 
successor: namely, Muhammad was con- 
vinced that the end of the world was so 
close at hand that he himself would witness 
it, and, consequently, there was no need for 
him to name a successor (Casanova, 
Mohammed, 12; for a critical view, see 
Watt-Bell, Introduction, 53-4; see caliph). 

Qur'anic appellations of the day of the last 


The most frequently occurring terms that 
refer to the last judgment in the Meccan 
suras are, as mentioned above, "day of res- 
urrection" [yawm al-qiydma, seventy times 
in Meccan and Medinan suras) and "day 
of judgment" [yawm al-din, thirteen times: 
a IT; I5 : 35; 26:82; 37:20; 38:78; 51:12; 
56:56; 70:26; 74:46; 82:15, 17, 18; 83:11; and 
four times without yawm, Q_ 51:6; 82:9; 95:7; 
107:1). In the Medinan suras, the dominant 
terms are "the last day" (al-yawm al-dkhir, 
twenty-six times: o_ 2:8, 62, 126, 177, 228, 
232, 264; 3:114; 4:38, 39, 59, 136, 162; 5:69; 
9:18, 19, 29, 44, 45, 99; 24:2; 29:36; 33:21; 
58:22; 60:6; 65:2) and al-dkhira (115 times). 
This last term, however, is mostly used for 
"the life to come," "the last dwelling." 
Some exegetes explain this term as "the 
mansion of the last hour" (ddr al-sd'a al- 
dkhira, Nasafi, Tafsit; ad o_ 6:32) or "the up- 
raising, resurrection, paradise, hell, reckon- 
ing and balance" (... al-dkhira... ay al-ba'th 
wa-l-qiydma wa-l-janna wa-l-ndr wa-l-hisdb 
wa-l-mizdn, Ibn Kathlr, Tafsir, ad Q_ 2:4). 



The "day of resurrection" (yawm al-qiyama) 
is also termed al-yawm al-dkhir, "since it is 
the last day and there is no day after it" 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, i, 271). 

Many terms or locutions appear in the 
Qur'an that are explained by the majority 
of exegetes as synonymous withyawm al- 
din. The following are the most important 
of these designations: "the hour" (al-sa'a, 
thirty-five times: Q_ 6:31, 40; 7:187; 12:107; 
15:85; 16:77; 18:21, 36; 19:75; 20:15; 21:49; 

22:1, 7, 55; 25:11; 30:12, 14, 55; 31:34; 33:63; 

34:3; 40:46; 41:47, 50; 42:17, 18; 43:61, 66, 

85; 45:27, 32 ; 47 :i 8; 54 :i > 46; 79:42); 

"dreadful day" (yawm 'azjm, o_ 6:15; 10:15); 
"the day of anguish" (yawm al-hasra, 
p_ 19:39); "barren day" (yawm 'aqim, 
Q_ 22:55; "since after it there will be no 
night," cf. T aDar i> Tafsir, i, 272); "the day of 
the upraising" (yawm al-ba'th, o_ 30:56); 
"the day of decision" (yawm al-fasl, 

a 37:21; 44:40; 77 :i 3. : 4> 38; 78:17); " the 

day of reckoning" (yawm al-hisdb, Q_ 38:16, 
26, 53; 40:27; see WEIGHTS AND MEASURES) 
and "the day when the reckoning will be 
established" (yawma yaqumu l-hisdbu, 
o_ 14:41); "the day of encounter" (yawm al- 
taldq, o 40:15); "the day of the imminent" 
(yawm al-dzfa, o_ 40:18) and "the immi- 
nent" (al-dzfa, o 53:57); "the day of invo- 
cation" (yawm al-tanddi, o_ 40:32); "the day 
of gathering" (yawm al-jam', Q_ 42:7; 64:9); 
"the day of the threat" (yawm al-wa 'id, 
Q_ 50:20); "the day of eternity" (yawm al- 
khulud, o_ 50:34; see eternity); "the day of 
coming forth" (yawm al-khuruj, o 50:42); 
"the terror" (al-wdqi'a, o_56:i; 69:15); "the 
day of mutual fraud" (yawm al-taghdbun, 
Q_ 64:9; see lie; honesty; markets); "the 
indubitable" (al-hdqqa, p_ 69:1, 2, 3; see 
truth); "the clatterer" (al-qdri'a, p_ 69:4; 
101:1, 2, 3); "the great catastrophe" 
(al-tdmma al-kubra, Q_ 79:34); "the blast" 
(al-sdkhkha, Q_ 80:33); "the promised day" 
(al-yawm al-maw'ud, o_ 85:2) and "the 
enveloper" (al-ghashiya, Q_ 88:1). 

Exegetes add some expressions which are 
said to refer to the day of the last judg- 
ment: " [fear] a day when no soul (q.v.) 
shall avail another" (yawman la tajzi nafsun 
'an nafsin shay'an, Q_ 2:123); "the day when 
some faces (see face) are whitened, and 
some faces blackened" (yawma tabyaddu 
wujuhun wa-laswaddu wujuhun, o 3:106); "a 
day wherein shall be neither bargaining 
nor befriending" (yawmun la bay'unjihi 
wa-ld khildlun, Q_ 14:31; see friends and 
friendship); "the day when their excuses 
shall not profit the evildoers" ( yawma la 

yanfa'u aTzalimina ma'dhiratuhum, Q_ 40:52), 
or "a day when no soul shall possess aught 
to succor another soul" (yawma la tamliku 
nafsun li-nafsin shay'an, Q_ 82:19). This list is 
far from exhaustive. Al-Ghazall (d. 505/ 
1 m), for example, gives more than one 
hundred names or epithets designating 

yawm al-qiyama (Ghazali, Ihyd', vi, 161; 
Firuzabadl, Basd'ir, v, 416-21; Ibn Kathlr, 
Ashrdt al-sa'a, 83-4, citing 'Abd al-Haqq 
al-Ishbilf s Kitdb al- 'Aqiba; 'Awajl; al-Haydt 
al-akhira, i, 45-55. 

Creating a comprehensive vision 
The qur'anic material on the last judgment 
is very rich and colorful but the allusions in 
the holy book do not provide a comprehen- 
sive picture of all of its details. As the vari- 
ous phases of the day of resurrection 
(yawm al-qiyama) are mentioned in different 
suras, sometimes clearly, sometimes meta- 
phorically (see metaphor), but generally 
without an arranged description of these 
phases, there was a need to reconstruct the 
qur'anic vision of this theme in order to 
provide a complete picture. Such a task was 
performed by a number of Muslim au- 
thors, who drew upon one or more of the 
following categories to assist them in their 
efforts at elaborating upon the qur'anic 
material: exegetical literature (tafsir, see 
medieval), hadlth, prophetic biography 


I 3 8 

(sira, see sira and the qjjr'an), ascetic lit- 
erature (zuhd, see asceticism), the "tales of 
the prophets" (qisas al-anbiya), material of 
Jewish and Christian origin (isralliyyat) , 
and Sufi writings (see sufism and the 
qur'an). These genres contributed to the 
evolution of a new branch in the Muslim 
religious literature dealing with the day of 
resurrection (yawm al-qiyama), including its 
preliminary signs (ashrat al-sa'a, cf. Q_ 47:18), 
detailed descriptions of its events, the last 
judgment, the intercession (q.v.) of the 
prophets (see prophets and prophet- 
hood) and then the reward or punishment 
(see reward AND punishment) of each 
human being according to his or her be- 
havior on earth. This branch is generally 
known as ahwalyawm al-qiyama ("dreads 
of the day of resurrection"). One of the 
oldest treatises dedicated to this topic is 
the Kitab al-Ahwal of Ibn Abl al-Dunya 
(d. 281/894; see also traditional 


Time of the last judgment 
The Qur'an has a variety of allusions to 
the time of the day of judgment: (a) no- 
body, including the Prophet, can anticipate 
when it is expected to happen: only God 
knows its exact date (q_ 7:187; 31:34; 33:63; 
41:47; 43:85; 79:42-4); (b) "the hour" (al- 
sa'a) may be very close (q_ 21:1; 33:63; 42:17; 
54:1; 70:6-7; it is "as a twinkling of the eye 
or even nearer," ka-lamhi l-basari aw huwa 
aqrabu, Q_ 16:77; cf. 54:50); (c) it will occur 
suddenly (baghtatan, p_ 6:31; 7:187; 12:107; 
22:55; 43:66; 47:18). Ibn Kathlr (d. 774/ 
1373) gives a very detailed list of qur'anic 
verses and traditions on this matter (Ashrat 
al-sa'a, 26-35; Wensinck, Handbook, s.v. 

Signs of the hour 
A number of preliminary "signs of the 
hour" (ashrat al-sa'a) are enumerated in the 
Qur'an. On many occasions, and more 

especially in the Meccan suras, the Qur'an 
denotes signs that will presage and foretell 
the last judgment (see apocalypse). Most 
of these signs are natural catastrophes and 
some of them appear collectively in 
Q_ 81:1-14: the sun (q.v.) will be darkened, 
the stars (see planets and stars) will be 
thrown down, the mountains will be set 
moving, the pregnant camels (see camel) 
will be neglected, the savage beasts will be 
mustered (see animal life), the seas will 
be set boiling (or will overflow), the souls 
will be coupled (with their bodies), the bur- 
ied female infant will be asked for what sin 
she was slain (see infanticide), the scrolls 
(q.v.; of deeds, good and bad) will be 
unrolled (see record of human action), 
heaven will be stripped away, hell will be 
set blazing and paradise (see garden) will 
be brought near. The mountains (will fly) 
like "tufts of carded wool" (q_ 101:5) and 
graves will be overturned (o_ I00:g; see 
death and the dead; cosmology). 

Later Islamic literary genres add other 
signs like the rising of the sun from the 
west; the appearance of the Antichrist 
(q.v.; al-masih al-dajjdl, or simply al-dajjdl); 
the descent from heaven of the Messiah 
'Isa, b. Maryam (see jesus; some reports 
attest that al-mahdi al-muntazar is 'Isa b. 
Maryam; DanI, Sunan, v, 1075-80) who will 
fight the Antichrist, break the crosses (of 
the Christians; see christians and Chris- 
tianity) and exterminate the pigs (yaksiru 
or yaduqqu l-salib wa-yaqtulu l-khinzir; DanI, 
Sunan, 239-40, 242; Sibt Ibn al-jawzl, 
Mir'dt, i, 582-5; Salih, Qiyama, i, 71-5; see 
jews and Judaism; polemic and polemi- 
cal language); the appearance of the 
ddbba (the reptile or the beast of burden) 
mentioned in Q_ 27:82 ('Abd al-Razzaq, 
Tafsir, ii, 84; Muslim, Sahih, K al-Fitan, 
n. 2901; Nu'aym b. Hammad, Kitab al- 
Fitan, 401-5). Three countries (in the east, 
the west and Arabia; see geography) will 
sink, and a fire from Adan will drive 



humankind to the gathering place (al- 
mahshar). Gog and Magog (q.v.; Ya'juj and 
Ma'juj) will attack the entire world, but will 
be eliminated nearjerusalem (q.v.; Nasa'T, 
Sunan, vi, 424 ad Q_ 27:82 gives a list of ten 
signs including the qur'anic ones; Gardet, 
Les grands pro blemes, 262, 11. 6). The litera- 
ture of apocalyptic portents (fitan and 
malahim, Fahd, Djafr; id., Malhama; 
Bashear, Apocalyptic materials, and the lit- 
erature cited there; id., Muslim apoca- 
lypses) abounds in prophecies about wars 
predicting the last judgment. As an aside, 
modern Ahmadl (see ahmadiyya) tajsir 
regards al-dajjal as representing the mis- 
sionary activities of the western Christian 
peoples, and Yajuj and Majuj as repre- 
senting their materialistic and political 
authorities [Tajsir Sural al-Kahj 105). 

The resurrection 
In Q_ 39:67-75, there is a detailed descrip- 
tion of the events of the resurrection 
(al-qiydma, al-ba 'th, al-ma 'ad or al-nushiir; cf. 
Izutsu, God, 90-4). The entire earth will be 
grasped by God's hand (q.v.) and the heav- 
ens will be rolled up in his right hand. The 
trumpet (al-sur) shall be blown and all crea- 
tures, including angels (see angel), will die, 
except those whom God wills. Then, it 
shall be blown again and they will be 
standing and looking on: "And the earth 
(q.v.) shall shine with the light of its lord 
(q.v.), and the book (q.v.) shall be set in 
place, and the prophets and witnesses (al- 
shuhada, see martyr; witnessing and 
testifying) shall be brought, and justly 
the issue be decided between them, and 
they not wronged. Every soul shall be paid 
in full for what it has wrought; and God 
knows very well what they do. Then the 
unbelievers shall be driven in companies 
into hell until, when they have come forth, 
then its gates will be opened... It shall be 
said, 'Enter the gates of hell, do dwell 
therein forever!'... Then those that feared 

their lord shall be driven in companies into 
paradise, until, when they have come forth, 
and its gates are opened, and its keepers 
will say to them: '... enter in, to dwell 
forever'... And you shall see the angels 
encircling about the throne (see throne 
of god) proclaiming the praise of their 
lord (see laudation; glorification of 
god); and justly the issue shall be decided 
between them " 

Such a description raises some questions 
in Islamic theology (the question of an- 
thropomorphism [q.v; tajsim]: God's hand, 
his right hand; the questions of God's jus- 
tice that arise if the identity of believers 
and unbelievers is known; see freedom 
and predestination; justice and 
injustice; theology and the ouran) 
and provokes discussions in the eschatolog- 
ical literature, particularly about the iden- 
tity of the creatures who will be exempted 
from dying after the first blow of the trum- 
pet: the angel/angels Gabriel (q.v.; Jibril), 
Michael (q.v.; Mika'll), Israfil, "the angel of 
death" (malak al-mawt), or God's throne- 
bearers and the fair females (al-hur al- 'in, cf 
°- 44 : 54 ; 5 2:2 °; 55 : 7 2 ; 56:22; Nasafi, Tajsir, 
iv, 66; see houris), or the martyrs (al- 
shuhadd', cf. Q_ 3:169: qutiluji sabili llahi; see 
path or way), or the prophets (possibly 
Moses [q.v.; Musa]?) or the immortal boys 
(wildanun mukhalladuna, Q_ 56:17; 76:19); and 
the interval of time between the two 
trumpet-calls (forty days, weeks, months or 
years; cf. Qurtubl, Tadhkira, i, 194-201). 
Since the ordering of events at this stage of 
the judgment day is not consistent and is 
sometimes even contradictory, many 
authors tried to arrange them (Ibn Kathlr, 
Nihaya, i, 270-373; Awajl, al-Hayat al- 
dkhira). Following these sources, an attempt 
of arrangement of these supposed events 
is presented below. 

(a) "The blowing of the trumpet" (al- 
najkhji l-sur). This is attested ten times in 
the Qur'an (also nuqirajt l-ndqur; ndqur is 



attested once, at o_ 74:8; al-naqur = al-sur; 
Firuzabadl, Basa'ir, v, 113). In the Qur'an, 
the identity of the blower is not revealed. 
In all the verses dealing with al-najkhji l-sur, 
the verb appears in the passive tense. Tra- 
ditions relate that the archangel Israfll is 
appointed to this task (Ibn al-jawzl, Tabsira, 
ii, 309-11). He will stand at the eastern or 
western gate of Jerusalem (Iliya 1 ; Suyutl, 
Dun; v, 339) or at "the rock of Jerusalem" 
(sakhrat bayt al-maqdis, Tabari, Tajsir, xvi, 
183) and blow. After the first blowing, gen- 
erally called najkhat al-sa'q, "whosoever is in 
the heavens and whosoever is in the earth 
shall swoon (sa 'iqa), save those whom God 
wills" (o_ 39:68). The exegetes explain the 
verb sa'iqa in this context as "to die" (mata, 
Lisdn al-'Arab, s.v. s-'-q; Nasafi, Tafsir, iv, 66; 
this meaning is peculiar to the usage of the 
tribes of 'Uman, cf. Ibn 'Abbas [attr.], al- 
Lughdtji l-Qur'dn, 17). There were also dis- 
cussions concerning the number of times 
the trumpet was blown. Most exegetes 
mention two, the blowing of the "swoon- 
ing" (najkhat al-sa'q) and that of the resur- 
rection (najkhat al-ba'th). Some, drawing 
upon o 27:87-8, add a third blowing, "the 
terrifying" (najkhat al-jaza', AwajT, al-Haydt 
al-akhira, i, 189-97). There are also tradi- 
tions attributed to Muhammad that he will 
be the first to be resurrected, but will be 
surprised to see Moses holding God's 
throne (Bukharl, Sahih, vi, 451; Muslim, 
Sahih, iv, 1844). 

(b) The returning to life. It should be 
noted here that some believe that al-ba 'th, 
the "returning to life," understood as the 
"resurrection of the souls and bodies" (Ibn 
Kathir, Tajsir, hi, 206), means the "corporal 
rising" from the graves (al-ma'dd al-jismam, 
Safarml, Mukhtasar, 387). 

(c) "The gathering" (al-hashr). Creatures, 
including humankind, jinn and animals, 
will be gathered (q_ 6:38; 42:29; 81:5). Rely- 
ing on o 7:29 and 21:104, the exegetes 
explain that humankind will be gathered 

"barefoot, naked and uncircumcised" (huja- 
tan 'uratan ghurlan, see clothing; circum- 
cision). The unbelievers will be gathered 
to hell prone on their faces (yuhsharuna 'aid 
wujuhihim, q_ 25:34; cf. 17:97). Al-Bukharl 
(d. 256/870; Sahih, vi, 137) reports that 
Muhammad replied to somebody who did 
not understand this situation, saying: "Will 
not the one who made the person walk on 
his feet in this world (see creation), be 
able to make him walk on his face on the 
day of resurrection?" 

(d) "The standing" before God (al-qiydm, 
al-wuquj). All creatures, including angels 
and jinn, have to stand (cf. o_ 78:38). The 
unbelievers will stand in the blazing sun, 
finding no shade anywhere (o_ 56:42-3; 
77:29-31; see hot and cold). 

(e) "The survey" (al-'ard, o 11:18; cf. 18:48; 
69:18). This term is likened in many 
sources to "a king surveying his army or his 
subjects." Al-Razi (d. 606/1210) rejects this 
interpretation and prefers to interpret al- 
'ard as "the settling of accounts with, and 
the interrogation" (al-muhdsaba wa-l- 
musd'ala, Razi, Tajsir, xxx, no). 

(f ) The personal books (kutub) or sheets 
(su/iuj sahd'ij al-a'mdl) containing all the 
acts of each person will be laid open 

(O. i 7 :i 3> 5 2:2 "3; 81:10). The one "who is 
given his book in his right hand" will 
enter paradise, but "whosoever is given his 
book in his left hand" will roast in hell 
(o_ 69:19-37). Some are given their books 
behind their backs; they will invoke their 
own destruction (o_ 84:10-1). In some cases, 
God will change the evil into good deeds 

(a 25:70)- 

(g) The balances of justice (al-mawdzina 
al-qista) will be set up (o_ 21:47). "Who- 
soever's scales [of good deeds] are heavy, 
they are the prosperous [by entering para- 
dise] and whosoever's scales are light, they 
have lost their souls [by entering hell] " 

(p_ 7:8-9; 23:102-3; cf. 101:6-9). 
(h) The creatures will bear witness against 



themselves (q_ 6:130). Their hands, legs, 
ears, eyes, tongues and skins will testify 
against them (q_ 24:24; 36:65; 41:22; 75:14). 
The prophets will submit testimony against 
their peoples (q_ 5:109). Jesus will be a wit- 
ness against the misguided among the Peo- 
ple of the Book (q.v., ahl al-kitdb) — the 
Jews who believed that they had already 
crucified him and the Christians who be- 
lieved that he is the son of God (o_ 4:159). 

(i) "The investigation" (al-musa'ala) . God 
will interrogate the messengers (see mes- 
senger) and the peoples to whom they 
were sent (q_ 7:6). The messengers will be 
interrogated about the response they 
received from people to their message 
(o_ 5:109). The investigation will also 
include angels (o_ 34:40-1). 

(j) The intercession (shaja'a) in favor of 
somebody will not be accepted that day 
except from the one to whom God has 
given permission (see o_ 2:254; 7:53; 10:3; 
20:109; 21:28; 74:48). The exegetes make a 
connection between al-kawthar (p_ 108:1), a 
river in paradise and al-hawd, Muham- 
mad's private basin outside or inside para- 
dise, from which believers will be invited to 
drink. Traditions stress the superiority of 
Muhammad to all other prophets since he 
alone has been given this privilege (Awajl, 
al-Haydt al-dkhira, i, 277-530). P. Casanova 
(Mohammed, 19-20) hypothesized that the 
first Muslim generation believed that 
Muhammad, the last prophet, had to pre- 
side over the last judgment and to serve as 
their advocate in the presence of God. 
Shl'i literature states that later the shafd'a 
was bestowed on the Prophet's descen- 
dants, the imams (Bar-Asher, Scripture and 
exegesis, 180-9; see imam; shi'ism and the 

(k) A bridge (sirdt) will be set up above 
and across hell (q_ 37:22-3) from one end to 
the other. Hadlth literature adds very rich 
descriptions of this bridge and the manner 
in which different kinds of people will cross 

it. The sinners will slope downward into 
hell and the believers will enter paradise. 

Some details cited above led the exegetes 
and other Muslim scholars to accept the 
doctrine of predestination since the iden- 
tity of sinners and believers is known 
before doomsday (o 74:31). But it is at the 
day of judgment (yawm al-din) that the fate 
(q.v.) of each creature is made explicit. 

Explanation of some eschatological terms 
Some terms dealing with the last judgment 
raised problems, which the exegetes and 
lexicographers tried to solve. One of the 
early Meccan suras, Q_ 75, is called al- 
Qiydma ("The Resurrection") because the 
word appears in its first verse. This term is 
generally explained by the lexicographers 
asyaw?n al-ba'th, yaqiimu fihi l-khalqu bayna 
yaday al-hayy al-qayyum, "the day of return- 
ing to life, when all the creatures will rise 
before the ever-living, the one who sustains 
(see god and his attributes)." It seems 
that this word, qiydma, is not Arabic. Ibn 
Manzur (d. 711/1311) cites in the Lisdn al- 
'Arab an anonymous tradition that suggests 
that qiydma is a borrowing from the Syriac/ 
Aramaic qiyamathd. Al-SuyutI (d. 911/1505) 
repeats this assertion when he speaks about 
al-qayyum (Itqdn, 172). The "first judgment" 
or al-qiydma al-sughrd is supposed to be 
'adhab al-qabr, "the torment of the grave," 
also termed the punishment of al-barzakh 
(purgatory; see barzakh), which includes 
the interrogation of the two angels, 
Munkar and Naklr. Many utterances 
attributed to Muhammad and cited in the 
canonical corpus ascribe to the Jews the 
first allusions to 'adhab al-qabr (Nawawl, 
Shark, v, 85-6). 

In Arabic, the root d-y-n (din) poses some 
difficulties since it has three different ety- 
mologies and, in consequence, different 
connotations: (1) religion; (2) custom, usage 
(al-'dda wa-l-sha'n); (3) punishment, reward 
(al-jazd' wa-l-mukafa'a; cf. Lisdn al-'Arab) 



or judgment (Ibn 'Abbas... al-din: yawm 
hisdb al-khala'iq wa-huwa yawm al-qiyama; cf. 
RazT, Tafsir, i, 29). This last connotation 
forms the basis of interpretations like 
the one — attributed to Qatada (d. ca. 
117/735) — that explains yawm al-din in 
o 1:4 as "the day on which God will judge 
humankind according to their acts" [yawm 
yadinu l-'ibada bi-a'mdlihim, Abd al- 
Razzaq, Tafsir, i, 37). The dominant mean- 
ing of din in Arabic is, however, "religion, 
religious law, custom" (Gardet, Din; id., 
L'Islam, 29-32). It seems that the sense 
"judgment" and "custom" is borrowed 
from the Hebraeo-Aramaic usage, which 
has its roots in Akkadian [dinum, "judg- 
ment," dayydnum, "judge"). On the basis of 
this root, the meaning of "sentence" is 
presumed. The title dayydnum was given in 
Akkadian to a judge, king or god. The 
dindti, "laws," served as direction or guid- 
ance for the judges to pass sentence on 
each case [Encyclopaedia biblica, s.v. mishpat). 
In view of this etymology, it seems that 
M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes [Mahomet, 
449-58, especially 454-5) was correct when 
he translatedjjfloim al-din as "the day when 
God gives a direction to each human 
being." See also law and the qjur'an. 

The place of the last judgment 
The Qur'an does not identify explicitly the 
place of the last judgment. The Compan- 
ions of the Prophet (q.v.; sahaba), his Fol- 
lowers (tdbi'un) and later exegetes tried to 
find hints which could help to identify the 
precise location. For example, Q_ 57:13 was 
explained as referring to Jerusalem (Wasiti, 
Fadd'il, 14-6, no. 14-7) and Q_ 50:41 to the 
rock of Jerusalem (ibid., 88-9, no. 143-5). 
The need for a satisfactory answer caused 
the Muslims to search the traditions of 
Judaism and Christianity, since both allot- 
ted Jerusalem a dominant role in eschatol- 
ogy (q.v.) and considered it as the scene of 
the envisioned end of days (Prawer, Chris- 

tian attitudes, 314-25). In this context, it is 
worth remembering that, at the beginning 
of the second/eighth century, Jerusalem 
was generally recognized in Muslim circles 
as the third holy place in Islam (Kister, You 
shall only set; Neuwirth, Sacred mosque). 
Later, there emerged traditions of Jewish 
or Christian origin where the connection 
was made between verses of the Qur'an 
pertaining to the end of days and Jerusa- 
lem: "Nawf al-Bikali [the nephew of Ka'b 
al-Ahbar] reported to the caliph Abd al- 
Malik (r. 65-85/685-705) that in a verse of 
the Bible, God said to Jerusalem (bayt al- 
maqdis): 'There are within you six things: 
my residence, my judgment place, my 
gathering place, my paradise, my hell and 
my balance (innafi kitdbi lldhi l-munazzal 
anna llaha yaqulu: Jika sittu khisdlin, fika 
maqdmi wa-hisdbi wa-mahshari wa-jannati wa- 
nari wa-mizdni)'" (Wasiti, Fadd'il, 23). 

The Umayyad regime openly encouraged 
this view because it gave them legitimiza- 
tion to move the Muslim center of worship 
from Medina (q.v.), the city of the Prophet, 
to Syria (q.v.), which includes Jerusalem: 
Mu'awiya b. Abl Sufyan (d. 60/680), the 
first Umayyad caliph, propagated the use 
of the term "land of ingathering and res- 
urrection on judgment day" (ard al-mahshar 
wa-l-manshar) with regard to Jerusalem 
(Wasiti, Fadd'il, introduction, 20). At that 
time, the Muslims did not see any harm in 
absorbing Jewish and Christian traditions 
(Kister, Haddithu 'an banl isra'll), particu- 
larly if the traditions reinforced the words 
of the Qur'an or explained unclear matters 
(see ambiguous; difficult passages). 
One of the oldest sources to preserve such 
material is the Tafsir of Muqatil b. Sulay- 
man (d. 150/768; here it should be noted 
that Abdallah M. Shahata, the editor of 
the Tafsir, chose to transfer from the text to 
the footnotes these and other traditions 
extolling Jerusalem, since "most of them 
are isrdiliyyaf' [Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 513-5], in 



spite of the fact that they were included in 
the body of the text of three out of the 
four manuscripts which he had consulted 
for his edition). Here are some examples of 
such traditions: "God will set his seat on 
the day of the resurrection upon the land 
of Jerusalem"; "Jesus is destined to de- 
scend from heaven in the land of Jerusa- 
lem"; "God will destroy Gog and Magog in 

Jerusalem"; "The gathering of the dead 
and their resurrection will be in the land of 

Jerusalem"; "The sirdt (the narrow bridge 
over Gehenna) goes forth from the land of 

Jerusalem to the garden of Eden and hell" 
(see the English translation of these tradi- 
tions in the appendix of Hasson, The Mus- 
lim view of Jerusalem). But this tendency 
of the early Islamic tradition to absorb 

Jewish and Christian material brought 
forth a reaction. The most vigorous repre- 
sentative of this reaction is Ibn Taymiyya 
(d. 728/1328), who attacked all the tradi- 
tions connecting the resurrection day with 

Jerusalem (see his Qd'ida). 

The last judgment in some previous religions 
The Quran supposes that, in genuine 

Judaism and Christianity, the belief in al- 
akhira, the resurrection and punishment or 
reward, formed a basic part of the message 
of Moses (Mfisa) and Jesus ('Isa, Q_ 12:101; 
19:33; 20:14-6; 40:42-3). The Muslims think 
that the Jews, after "having perverted 
words from their meanings" (o_ 2:75; 4:46; 
5:13, 41; see forgery), removed the con- 
cept of the resurrection from the Bible 
(Awajl, al-Haydt al-dkhira, i, 116-23). Mus- 
lim tradition connects the punishment 
after death in the grave ('adhdb al-qabr) to a 

Jewish source (Nawawi, Sharh, v, 85-6). It is 
therefore worth reviewing similar ideas in 
previous religions and in Islam. 

Most of the signs of the hour (ashrdt al- 
sd'a) appear in the Hebrew Bible and in 
rabbinic literature; these are known as 
hevlei mashiyyah, "the tribulations preceding 

the coming of the Messiah" (Grossman, 
Jerusalem, 295-303). Some examples of the 
similarities between the qur'anic and bibli- 
cal descriptions of these events are: the 
vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37; Ya'juj 
and Majflj (o_ 21:96) — the biblical Gog 
and Magog — "will swiftly swarm from 
every mound"; "signs of the hour" abound 
in Isa 24; and Isa 27:1, but especially 27:13, 
"... the great trumpet shall be blown, and 
they shall come which were ready to perish 
in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in 
the land of Egypt, and shall worship the 
lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem," bring 
to mind al-sur or al-ndqur, particularly in 
view of the Muslim explanation that al-sur 
is a horn (Tirmidhl, Sahih, iv, 620; Abu 
Dawud, ii, 537), the traditional Jewish sho- 
far. The traditions explaining that the gath- 
ering and the last judgment must be in 
Jerusalem have their origin, perhaps, in this 
verse and in the midrashim, the homiletic in- 
terpretations of the scriptures. The blow- 
ing of the trumpet, the day of the lord, "a 
day of darkness and of gloominess," the 
earth which shall quake, the heavens which 
shall tremble, and the sun and the moon 
which shall be dark are mentioned in Joel 
2. The gathering of all the heathen will be 
in the valley of Jehoshaphat: "for there will 
I sit to judge all the heathen round about" 
[Joel 4:12; see also Amos 5:18-20; £eph 1; Isa 
66:16, 24). To explain the prevalence of 
such imagery, H. Gressmann (Ursprung) 
claimed one century ago that there circu- 
lated, among many ancient peoples in the 
epoch of the prophets of Israel, prophecies 
about disasters (earthquakes, fires and vol- 
canoes...) which would destroy the world 
and about a paradise with rivers of milk, 
honey and fresh water. 

In the Book of Daniel 12:2, which re- 
tained a Persian influence and was very 
popular in the first century of Islam since 
many Muslims wanted to know the exact 
date of the last judgment, there appears 



the idea of the resurrection and of ever- 
lasting life for some and everlasting shame 
and contempt for others. S. Shaked and 
W. Sundermann (Eschatology) very clearly 
show Zoroastrian and Manichean influ- 
ences on eschatological material within 
Second Temple Judaism, Christianity 
and, later, on Islam. M. Gaudefroy- 
Demombynes {Mahomet, 405) claimed that, 
in the period of the emigration (q.v.; hijra) 
to Medina, the qur'anic verses stopped 
reporting about the punishment of sinners 
on earth and began to mention the last 
judgment. While a similar sequence has 
been suggested for the Hebrew Bible, there 
is no consensus on this matter among 
scholars of the Qur'an. 

In the New Testament, the Revelation of 
John contains many elements of the resur- 
rection, but they do not resemble the 
qur'anic scheme. Gibb {Mohammedanism, 
26-7) is certain that the doctrine of the last 
judgment in the Qur'an was derived from 
Christian sources, especially from the writ- 
ings of the Syriac Christian Fathers and 
monks (see syriac and the cujr'an; 
monasticism and monks). Tor Andrae, 
who devoted considerable attention to pos- 
sible Christian antecedents (see esp. Der 
Ursprung des Islams und das Cristentum), finds 
expression of the idea that nobody can 
determine the date of the last hour in 
Mark 13:32. Only God knows about that 
day or hour. Finally, many last judgment 
scenes appear, with some modifications, in 
early Christian apocalypses (Maier, Staging 
the gaze). Although the "beast" in Hermas 
vision 4, which represents a coming perse- 
cution, or the "leviathan" in Isaiah 27:1, 
which represents evil powers, are reminis- 
cent of the ddbha in C3 27:82 which became 
one of the "signs of the hour" (ashrat al- 
sd'a), Annemarie Schimmel correctly as- 
serts that "the Koranic descriptions of 
Judgment and Hell do not reach the fantas- 

tic descriptions of, for example, Christian 
apocalyptic writing." 

Isaac Hasson 

Primary: 'Abd al-Razzaq, Tafsir, ed. M.M. 
Muhammad, ii, 84; Abu Dawud; Barzanjl, 
Muhammad b. Rasul al-Husaynl, al-Isha'a ti- 
ashrdt at-sd c a, Jeddah 1997 (rich mjitan traditions); 
al-BastawI, 'Abd al-'Allm 'A. 'A, Ahddith al-mahdi 
at-daifa wa-l-mawdu% Beirut 1999; id., at-Mahdi 
at-munta^arji daw ' al-ahadith wa-l-athar al-sahiha, 
Beirut 1999; al-Bayhaql, Abu Bakr Ahmad b. al- 
Husayn, al-JamV ti-shu'ab at-imdn, ed. 'A. 'A. 
Hamid, 10 vols, (incomplete), Bombay 1986-90 
(esp. ii, 5-335 and iii, 7-304); Bukharl, Sahih, 9 
vols., Cairo 1958; Dam, at-Sunan at-wdrida ji l-fitan 
wa-ghawd'itihd wa-t-sd'ati wa-ashrdtihd, ed. Rida' 
Allah al-MubarakfurT, 6 vols, in 3, Riyadh 1995 
(esp. vols, iv-vi); Flruzabadl, Basd'ii; ed. 'A. al- 
'Alim al-TahawI, Beirut n.d.; al-Ghazall, Abu 
Hamid Muhammad, Ihya : 'ulurn al-din, ed. Dar 
al-Khayr, 6 vols, in 5, n.p. n.d., vi, 153-202 (Fi 
ahwdt at-mayyi min waqt najkhat al-sur); Ibn Abbas 
(attr.), al-Lughatji l-Qur'an, ed. S. al-Dln al- 
Munajjid, Beirut 1978; Ibn al-JawzT, al-Tabsira, 
Beirut 1986; Ibn Kathlr, Ashrat al-sa'a wa-umur al- 
akhira, Beirut 1998 (abr. ed. of Ibn KathTr, Nikaya 
by M. b. Ahmad Kan'an); id., at-Nihayafi t-fitan 
wa-t-matahim, ed. M.A. Abd al-AzTz, Cairo 1986; 
id., Tafsir, Ibn Khuzayma, Abu Bakr Muham- 
mad b. Ishaq, at-Tawhid wa-ithbat sijdt at-rabb, ed. 
M.Kh. Harras, Beirut 1983, 70-4; 95-100; 149-61; 
167-97; 2 3 I-uo \ anc l 374"6; Ibn Taymiyya, Qa'ida 
ji ziyarat bayt at-maqdis, ed. Ch. Mathews, in JAOS 
66 (1939), 7-17; Lisan at-'Arab; Muqatil, Tafsir; 
Muslim, Sahih; Nasafl, Tafsir, Nasa'T, Sunan; 
Nawawl, Shark; Nu'aym b. Hammad al-KJiuzaT, 
Kitab at-Fitan, ed. S. Zakkar, Beirut 1993; Qur- 
tubl, al-Tadhkirafi ' ahwdt at-mawtd wa-umur al- 
dkhira, ed. A. HijazT al-Saqqa, Cairo 1980; RazI, 
Tafsir, ed. As'ad M. al-Tayyib, Mecca 1997; al- 
SaffarlnT, Shams al-Dln Abu Ah Muhammad b. 
Ahmad, Mukhtasar lawdmi' at-anwdr at-bahiyya, 
Damascus 1931, 387; Sibt Ibn al-JawzT, Mir'dt; 
SuyutI, Durr; id., Itqdn; Tabarl, Tafsir; Tafsir 
surat al-kahf ed. Fadl Ilahl BashTr, Haifa 1979; 
Tirmidhi, Sahih; al-Tirmidhl, Muhammad b. 'All 
al-Haklm, at-Anithdt min at-kitdb wa-t-sunna, ed. 
M. 'Abd al-Qadir Ata, Beirut 1989, 42, 180-4; 
al-Wasitl, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Ahmad, 
Fadd'il at-bayt al-muqaddas, ed. I. Hasson, Jeru- 
salem 1979, traditions no. 14-7, 26, 28, 35, 39, 55, 
65, 71, 81, 85-6, 89, 100, 108, 114-5, 118, 126, 
142-5, 150-3 and 165. 

r 45 


Secondary: T. Andrae, Der Ursprung des Islams und 
das distention, Uppsala 1926; Fr. trans. J. Roche, 
Les origines de VIslam et le Christianisme, Paris 1955; 
Gh. b. C A. c Awaji, al-Hayat al-dkhira ma bayna al- 
bath ila dukhul al-janna aw al-ndr, Cairo 1997; 
M.M. Bar-Asher, Scripture and exegesis in early 
Imdnu Shiism, Leiden/Jerusalem 1999, 180-9; 
S. Bashear, Apocalyptic and other materials on 
early Muslim-Byzantine wars. A review of 
Arabic sources, in JRas 3/1 (1991), 173-207; id., 
Muslim apocalypses and the Hour. A case-study 
in traditional reinterpretation, in 10s 13 (1993), 
75-99; B. Carra de Vaux, Barzakh, in ei 2 , i, 
1071-2; P. Casanova, Mohammed et la fin du monde. 
Etude critique sur VIslam primitif Paris 1911-24; 
M. Cook, Muhammad, Oxford 1983; R. Eklund, 
Life between death and resurrection according to Islam, 
Uppsala 1941; S. El-Saleh, La vie future selon le 
Goran, Paris 1971; Encyclopaedia biblica, 8 vols., 
Jerusalem 1950-82; T. Fahd, Djafr, in ei 2 , ii, 
375-7; id., Malhama, in ei 2 , vi, 247; D. Galloway, 
The resurrection and judgment in the Qur'an, 
in mw 12 (1922), 348-72; L. Gardet, Din, in ei 2 , 
ii, 293-6; id., Les grands de la theologie 
musulmane. Dieu et la destinee de Vhomme, Paris 
1967; id., VIslam, religion et communaute, Paris 
1970, 95-107; id., Kiyama, in Ei 2 , v, 235-8; 
M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Mahomet, Paris 
1969, 401-47; A. Geiger, Judaism and Islam, trans. 
EM. Young, New York 1970, 45-64; H.A.R. 
Gibb, Mohammedanism, Oxford 1969; P. Gignoux, 
Les doctrines eschatologiques de Narsai, in 
L 'orient syrien 11 (1966), 321-52, 461-88; 12 (1967), 
23-54; H. Gressmann, Ursprung der israelitisch- 
judischen Eschatologie, Gottingen 1905; A. Gross- 
man, Jerusalem injewish apocalyptic literature, 
inj. Prawer and H. Ben Shammai (eds.), The 
history of Jerusalem. The early Muslim period. 
6381099, New York 1996, 295-310; G.E. von 
Grunebaum, Classical Islam. A history. 600-1258, 
London 1970, 28-30, 33; I. Hasson, The Muslim 
view of Jerusalem. The Qur'an and hadlth, in 
J. Prawer and H. Ben Shammai (eds.), The history 
of Jerusalem. The early Muslim period. 638-iogg, 
New York 1996, 349-85; Izutsu, God, 90-4; 220-2; 
M.M. Khan and M.T. al-Hilall, Interpretation of 
the meanings of the noble Qur'an, Medina 1994 4 ; M.J. 
Kister, Haddithu 'an bam isrd'Tla wa-la haraja. A 
study of an early tradition, in IOS 2 (1972), 
215-39; id., You shall only set out for three 
mosques. A study of an early tradition, in Museon 
82 (1969), 173-96; H.O. Maier, Staging the gaze. 
Early Christian apocalypses and narrative self- 
representation, in Harvard theological review 90 
(1997), 131-54; A. Neuwirth, From the sacred 
mosque to the remote temple. Surat al-Isra ! 
between text and commentary, inJ.D. McAuliffe, 

B. Walfish andj. Goering (eds.), With, reverence for 
the word. Medieval scriptural exegesis in Judaism, 
Christianity and Islam, Oxford 2003, 376-407; 
T. CShaughnessy, Muhammad's thoughts on death. 
A thematic study of the qur'anic data, Leiden 1969 
(important concerning Syriac Christian sources); 
J. Prawer, Christian attitudes towards Jerusalem 
in the early Middle Ages, in J. Prawer and 
H. Ben Shammai (eds.), The history of Jerusalem. 
The early Muslim. period. 638-iogg, New York 1996, 
311-48; Y. Ragib, Faux morts et enterres vifs dans 
l'espace musulman, in si 57 (1983), 5-30 (espe- 
cially 28-30); M.A. Salih, al-Qvydma, mashdhiduhd 
wa-'igdtuhafi l-sunna l-nabawiyya, Beirut 1994; 
A. Schimmel, Islam. An introduction, New York 
1992, 12-4, 73-89; M.S. Seale, An Arab's concern 
with life after death, in id., Qur'an and Bible. 
Studies in interpretation, and dialogue, London 1978, 
90-8; S. Shaked and W. Sundermann, 
Eschatology, in Encyclopaedia Iranica, viii, 1998, 
565-75; Watt-Bell, Introduction; Wensinck, 
Handbook; id./A.S. Tritton, ( Adhab al-kabr, in 
ei 2 , i, 186-7. 


The act or instance of praising or extol- 
ling, the object of such praise often being 
God. More precisely, laudation (hamd) in 
the qur'anic context refers to the specific 
formulaic phrase "praise belongs to God" 
(al-hamdu li-lldh), which occurs twenty-four 
times in the Qur'an. Perhaps the most sig- 
nificant instance of this formulaic phrase 
appears in the opening chapter of the 
Qur'an (see fatiha), directly following the 
basmala (q.v.). Here (i.e. q 1:2), in the very 
first line of the Qur'an, the phrase is asser- 
tive {insha'i, see form and structure of 
the qur'an; language and style of the 
qjjr'an) in its use, as the one uttering it 
creates a verbal expression of the actual 
praise (q.v.) he directs toward God. Given 
its prominent position in the text, this in- 
stance of lauding God becomes an essen- 
tial and vital act for those who believe, a 
trial (q.v.) and test for those who submit 
(see faith; belief and unbelief). In addi- 
tion to this formulaic phrase, there are 



several rhetorical variations of hamd that 
also point to the act of commending one's 
lord (q.v.), which occur in twenty-one other 
qur'anic verses. 

According to al-Tabari (d. 310/923; 
Tafsir, i, 136), the phrase "praise belongs 
to God" means that gratitude belongs en- 
tirely to God alone for all the generous gifts 
he has bestowed upon his servants (see 
GIVING; servant). Praise may not be di- 
rected to anything that might be wor- 
shipped besides him nor to anything he has 
created (see creation; worship). Not 
only the praising of the speaker, but all 
possible praising belongs to God alone. 
Only God has the power to give his cre- 
ation the sustenance, nourishment and the 
means through which one can achieve eter- 
nal salvation (q.v.; see also eternity; 
blessing; grace). No one has the right to 
claim or demand what God freely gives; for 
this reason alone all praise belongs to him. 
In the revelatory proclamation (see reve- 
lation and inspiration), all praisewor- 
thiness proceeds from him and to him it 
must return. 

The exegetical literature (see exegesis of 
the qjur'an: classical and medieval) 
debates the rather intricate relationship be- 
tween hamd, "praise," shukr, "gratitude," 
and other forms of exaltation (for subhana 
llahi, see glorification of god). Some 
traditions suggest that by giving praise to 
God one is thanking him for all he has 
given; others say praise means expressing 
one's subservience (al-istikhdha') or one's 
commendation (thand') to him. Others 
assert a more qualitative difference be- 
tween praising and thanking: when one 
praises God one praises him for his most 
beautiful names and attributes (see GOD 
AND His attributes), but when one thanks 
him, one is thanking him for his munifi- 
cence and favors. However that debate is 
decided, God orders his servants to extol 

him in terms befitting him. Praise belongs 
to him for all things, both beneficial and 
painful (see also GOOD AND evil). 

Kathryn Kueny 

Primary: Tabarl, Tafsir, ed. Shakir. 
Secondary: A. Giese and A.K. Reinhart, Shukr, 
in EI 2 , ix, 496-8; H.E. Kassis, A concordance of the 
Qur'an, London 1983; Lane; D.B. MacDonald, 
Hamdala, in El 2 , iii, 122-3; Pickthall. 


Sound and/or facial expressions generally 
indicative of merriment. Laughter does 
not figure prominently in the Qur'an: verb 
forms and participles derived from d-h-k 
occur just ten times compared to a stun- 
ning 179 appearances of its synonymous 
Hebrew cognates s-'-h-q/s-h-q in the 
Hebrew Bible. B-s-m for smiling appears 
just once and never the onomatopoetic 
q-h-q-h for strong laughter (an Arabic root 
form which, incidentally, more or less 
reverses and doubles the western Semitic 
onomatopoetic *-h-q from which the vari- 
ous triliterals for laughter seem to be 
derived). Laughter in the Quran usually 
expresses disbelief in God and his mes- 
sages/messengers (o 11:71; 43:47; 53-6o; see 

also apparent when the unbelievers laugh 
at and mock the believers (o_ 23:110; 83:29). 
Laughter is thus closely linked with the 
subject of mockery (q.v.). Only once does it 
express harmless amusement (o 27:19) and 
twice joy (p_ 9:82; 80:39; see JOY AND 
misery). But while the joyful laughter of 
hypocrites (see hypocrites and hypoc- 
risy) who stay behind instead of fighting 
(q.v.) for God's cause (see jihad; path or 
way) signals a sinful disobedience (q.v.) 
that equals disbelief, the laughing faces of 
those who achieved paradise (q.v.) are the 



reward of dutiful belief (see reward and 

The references to laughter predominantly 
reflect the initial experience of Muham- 
mad as well as any other prophet (as 
attested by similar references to laughter 
and mockery in the Hebrew Bible; see 
prophets and prophethood): their mes- 
sage is derided. The qur'anic message 
counters this derision with eschatological 
threats (see eschatology). The last judg- 
ment (q.v.) will bring a reversal of fate (q.v.) 
and those who laughed sinfully will cry 
(q_ 9:82; see weeping) and be laughed at by 
the believers (q_ 83:34; for a similar threat 
of reversal in the New Testament, see 
Luke 6:25; for a corresponding prediction 
regarding mockery in the Qur'an, see 

°_9 : 79)- 

To explicate these overriding assessments, 
several verses and exegetical statements 
merit more detailed comments. First of all, 
the Qur'an never categorically condemns 
laughter as such. Pellat's (Seriousness, 354) 
interpretation of Q_ 9:82 is clearly mistaken: 
the laughing hypocrites will be punished 
with prolonged crying for staying behind, 
not simply for laughing. The only verse to 
suggest that crying might generally be 
more appropriate than laughing is 
Q_ 53:57-62: "The approaching (hour) is 
imminent. None but God can avert it. Do 
you wonder at this news and laugh and will 
you not weep? You are raising your heads 
proudly [or, amusing yourselves: wa-antum 
samiduna] . Prostrate yourselves before God 
and worship!" Here (o 53:60), it may be 
argued, it is not just the surprised laughter 
of disbelief in the last judgment that is 
inappropriate, but laughter in general, as 
opposed to crying (Ammann, Vorbild und 
Vernunft, 78). This can be interpreted as 
recommending a serious and more speci- 
fically pious attitude towards life instead of 
godless frivolity (see piety). But it remains 
open to debate whether, first, the recom- 

mendation holds true beyond the very 
moment of speaking or the limited period 
during which the revelation expected the 
end of the world to happen at any moment 
(see apocalypse; revelation and inspi- 
ration); and, second, whether weeping 
should be limited to times of prayer (in the 
moderate sense of "There is a time for 
weeping and a time for laughing," Eccles 
3:4) or cultivated as much as possible. The 
latter, rather extreme literalist view — that 
weeping should be cultivated as much as 
possible — was taken by the ascetic "weep- 
ers" (bakka'), those mystics who denounced 
laughter and shed many tears during their 
devotional exercises (Meier, Bakka'; see 
sufism and the qur'an; prayer). The 
minimalist view — that at least prayer is 
certainly not a time for laughing — found 
acceptance in several law schools ( c Abd al- 
Razzaq, Musannaf, i, nos. 3760-8 and 
3770-8; Ibn Abl Shayba, Musannaf, i, 387 f; 
see LAW AND THE Q_UR'An). 

The eschatological contempt for this 
world betrayed by q 53:60 and best at- 
tested by its dismissal as mere play and 
amusement in Q_ 6:32 flourished in pious 
circles and especially among early ascetics 
who provided numerous dicta against 
laughter (Ammann, Vorbild und Vernunft, 
74 f), some of which found their way into 
hadlth collections and qur'anic exegesis 
(see asceticism; hadith and the qur'an; 
exegesis of the qur'an: classical and 
medieval). Thus, the "small" and "big" 
(i.e. sin) of Q 18:49 could be interpreted as 
laughter, or as smiling and laughing, re- 
spectively (Tabarl, Tafsir, ad Q 18:49; see 
sin, major and minor). But if such arbit- 
rary embellishments are discounted, the 
one instance of qur'anic reserve against 
laughter that is open to exegetical general- 
ization is a far cry from the Bible's uncon- 
ditional loathing [Eccles 7:6; James 4:9; Sir 
21:20; Eccles 2:2; Eph 5:4; and, most instruc- 
tive by comparison, Luke 6:25). 


c) 53:60 is remarkable for another aspect 
that often goes unnoticed: it reflects the 
popular conception already attested in pre- 
Islamic Arabian poetry (see poetry and 
poets; pre-islamic ARABIA and the 
our'an) that laughter is caused by surprise 
(ta'ajjub). Much later medical and philo- 
sophical theories of laughter based on this 
conception seem to be indebted to theolog- 
ical debates rather than Greek authors 
(Ammann, Vorbild und Vernunft, 14-9; see 
theology and the q_ur'an; medicine 

our'an). The debates were triggered by 
two verses. In o_ 11:71-4, God's messengers 
reassure a frightened Abraham (q.v.); his 
wife Sara laughs, is told that she will give 
birth to Isaac (q.v; Ishaq) andjacob (q.v; 
Ya'qub) and, being old, she wonders at this 
strange thing (shay' 'ajib). Her surprise, in 
turn, is called into question by the messen- 
gers: "Do you wonder (tajablna) at God's 
command?" This is one of the rare exam- 
ples where doubt (q.v.) in a prophetic mes- 
sage is noted, but not condemned as sinful. 
The chronology of the biblical version of 
the story [Gen 18:10-5), in which Sara 
laughs after she hears the lord's announce- 
ment, makes clear the reason for Sara's 
laughter: she is surprised at the idea of 
giving birth at her age. But Muslim com- 
mentators, beginning with Muhammad's 
cousin Ibn Abbas (d. 68/686-8), were 
faced with a text that has Sara laughing 
before she even knows what to laugh at. 
There were three solutions to this problem 
(Ammann, Vorbild und Vermmft,ig f; TabarT, 
Tafsir and T a barsi, Majma\ ad q 11:71): 
some exegetes restored the Bible's se- 
quence and meaning, others identified an 
earlier reason for surprised or joyful laugh- 
ter, while a third group claimed that dahikat 
here actually means hadat — she menstru- 
ated (see menstruation). The last opinion 
is not supported by sound philological evi- 
dence and seems particularly ill-advised 
since there is no reason for surprise if Sara 

had already menstruated before she is told 
she will give birth, but it has been duly 
cited by lexicographers ever since its initial 
proposal. The etymological message of the 
biblical story — Isaac (Ishaq) takes his 
name from his parents' laughter — is clear 
in Hebrew, but not in Arabic, and thus 
escaped Muslim commentators. The loss 
of this detail need not be greatly regretted 
since the value of this folk etymology has 
been doubted anyway: the name Ishaq is 
probably of theophoric origin and ex- 
pressed the wish that God should either 
laugh, that is, welcome the new-born or 
grown-up bearer of the name, or make 
him laugh, that is, happy. 

This leads to o_ 53:36-44, which contains 
the only theological statement about laugh- 
ter in the Qur'an (p_ 53:43-4). It portrays 
God as the creator or ultimate cause of 
laughter and weeping: "Was it not prophe- 
sied to him what is [said] in the scrolls (q.v.) 
of Moses (q.v; Musa) and Abraham [...] 
that God is the end [of all] , and that it is 
he who causes to laugh and to weep 
(adhaka wa-abkd), and that it is he who 
causes to die and to live (amdta wa-ahya)?" 
It is in the context of God's primordial and 
eschatological roles of creator and termi- 
nator that God is credited with causing 
woman and man to laugh and to weep (see 
creation; freedom and predestina- 
tion). The verses, in fact, summarize how 
human destiny (q.v.) must be interpreted 
from the point of view of salvation history 
(see history and the qjjr'an; salva- 
tion). The joy and grief expressed by 
laughter and tears, corresponding, in the 
final analysis, to life (q.v.) and death (see 
death and THE dead), are both sent by 
God. The exact wording conspicuously 
reverses the internal sequence of the two 
pairs: laugh — weep, die — live (see pairs 
and pairing). There is more to this than 
just the formal exigency of rhymed prose 
(q.v.; saj'). Ending on a note of hope (q.v.), 
the final ahya suggests that the creator both 

[ 49 


causes people to live in this world and re- 
vives them in the hereafter, that is, finally 
raises them from the dead. This may mean 
that at least believers have more reason to 
laugh than to weep, and it certainly invali- 
dates the maximalist reading of the end of 
Q_ 53:60-2 (mentioned above), which would 
like to rule out laughter completely. For 
Muslim commentators, the theological 
question posed by this verse was whether 
God literally creates human laughter and 
weeping or only the reasons for it, such as 
joy and grief. The latter explanation was 
promoted by Mu tazills (q.v.) bent on de- 
fending free will against the determmist 
causative phrasing of the verse. But there 
was one concession: irresistible laughter is 
God-sent laughter; thus the involuntary act 
is interpreted as willed by God (Ammann, 
Vorbild und Vernunft, 21 f; T a k a rf> Tafsir; 
Tabarsi, Majma'; RazI, Tafsir ad Q_ 53:43). 

In the Qur'an (as opposed to the biblical 
portrayal), God is never portrayed as 
laughing, but in several hadlths he is (see 
Gimaret, Dieu a I'image de I'homme, 265-79). 
This portrayal also sparked theological 
objections, this time against the implied 
anthropomorphism (q.v.). One of the 
more fascinating arguments jointly refutes 
God's laughter and surprise by pointing 
out that only someone who originally did 
not know could wonder and laugh at some- 
thing — whereas God is all-knowing (see 
GOD AND HIS attributes). Surprise and 
laughter here and elsewhere are both seen 
as prerogatives of humans and linked with 
their rational faculties (Ammann, Vorbild 
und Vernunft, 42 f. and 26 f; Lecomte, TraiU 
des divergences, 235 f; Zamakhsharl, Kashshaf, 
ad Q_ 37:12; see intellect). 

The perplexmgfa-tabassama ddhikan min 
qawlihd of Q_ 27:19 is probably best under- 
stood as "he [Solomon] smiled amused at 
her [the ant's] word" (Ammann, Vorbild und 
Vernunft, 9 f; see solomon; animal life). 
But it may also reflect a long-standing rule 
of Near Eastern etiquette attested by 

Christian, Persian and also pre-Islamic 
Arabic sources (see e.g. the verse by Aws 
b. Ffajar about women who "laugh but 
smilingly," mayadhakna ilia tabassuman). This 
rule of cultured laughter subdued to a 
mere smile was later attributed to the 
Prophet (Ammann, Vorbild und Vernunft, 
88-iog and 47-61). There is no reason to 
believe that the hadlth in question was not 
fabricated. But it constitutes a respectable 
compromise between the Prophet's well- 
attested loud laughter in some instances 
and his ominous warning that "If you 
knew what I know, you would laugh little 
and weep much!" (Ammann, Vorbild und 
Vernunft, 48 and 65-68). 

Ludwig Ammann 

Primary: c Abd al-Razzaq, Musannaf; Ibn Abu 
Shayba, Abu Bakr 'Abdallah b. Muhammad, 
Kitdb al-Musannaf ft l-hadith wa-l-dthdr, Bombay 
1979-83; RazI, Tafsir; Tabarl, Tafsir; Tabarsi, 
Majma'; Zamakhsharl, Kashshaf. 
Secondary: L. Ammann, Vorbild und Vernunft. Die 
Regelung von Lachen und Scherzen im mittelalterlichen 
Islam, Hildesheim 1993 (full bibli.); R. Bartelmus, 
Sahaq/sahaq, in H.-J. Fabry and H. Ringgren, 
Theologisches Worterbuch zum Alien Testament, 8 vols., 
Stuttgart 1973-95, vii, 730-45; D. Gimaret, Dieu a 
Vimage de I'homme, Paris 1997; G. Lecomte, Le trade 
des divergences du hadlth d'Ibn Qiltayba (mort en 2/6/ 
88g), Damascus 1962; F. Meier, Bakka', in El", i, 
959-61; Gh. Pellat, al-Djidd wa 5 l-hazl, in Ef, ii, 
536-7; id., Seriousness and humour in early 
Islam, in Islamic studies 2 (1962), 353-63; S.P 
Stetkevych, Sarah and the hyena. Laughter, 
menstruation and the genesis of a double 
entendre, in History of religions 35 (igg6), 11-41. 

Law and the Qur'an 

The Qur'an has a curious function in 
Islamic law. It is doubtless considered the 
first and foremost of the four major 
sources of the law (i.e. the shari'a). Yet in 
substantive legal terms and in comparison 
with the full corpus of the shari'a, the 
Qur'an provides a relatively minor body of 


r 5° 

legal subject matter, although a few of the 
most central rulings that govern the life of 
Muslim society and the individual (see 
ethics and THE qur'an) are explicitly 
stated in it, or derived from one or another 
of its verses. The centrality of the Quran 
in the shan'a stems more from theological 
and intellectual considerations of the law 
and less from its ability to provide substan- 
tive legal subject matter (see theology 

The early legal history of the text 
While it is true that the Qur'an is primarily 
a book of religious and moral prescrip- 
tions, there is no doubt that it encompasses 
pieces of legislation strictly defined. In pro- 
pounding his message, the Prophet wished 
to break away from pre-Islamic Arabian 
values and institutions, but only insofar as 
he needed to establish, once and for all, the 
foundations of the new religion (see islam; 
Pragmatically, he could not have done 
away with all the social practices and insti- 
tutions that had prevailed prior and up to 
his time. Among the multitude of exhorta- 
tions (q.v.) and prescriptions found in the 
Qur'an, there are a good number of legal 
and quasi-legal stipulations. Thus legisla- 
tion was introduced in select matters of 
ritual (see RITUAL AND THE qur'an), alms- 
tax (see almsgiving; taxation), property 
(q.v.) and treatment of orphans (q.v.), 
inheritance (q.v.), usury (q.v), consumption 
of alcohol (see intoxication; wine), 
marriage, separation, divorce (see mar- 
riage and divorce), sexual intercourse 
(see sex AND sexuality), adultery (see 

and homicide (see murder; bloodshed). 

Medieval Muslim jurists and modern 
scholars seem to agree that the Qur'an 
contains some five hundred verses with 
explicitly legal content. In comparison with 

the body of qur'anic material as a whole, 
the legal verses appear rather exiguous, 
conveying the impression that the Qur'an's 
preoccupation with legal matters is nothing 
more than incidental. At the same time, it 
has frequently been noted by Islamicists 
that the Qur'an often repeats itself both 
literally and thematically. If we accept this 
to be the case, it would mean that the rela- 
tive size of the legal subject matter, where 
repetition rarely occurs, is larger than pre- 
viously thought. And if we consider the 
fact that the average length of the legal 
verse is twice or even thrice that of the 
average non-legal verse, it is not difficult to 
argue that the Qur'an contains no less legal 
material than does the Torah, which is 
commonly known as "The Law" (Goitein, 
The birth-hour, 24). Therefore, while 
qur'anic law constitutes a relatively minor 
part of the shan'a, the Qur'an, in and by 
itself, is no less legalistic than the Torah. 

The law of the Torah, Gospel and Qur'an 
This affirmation of significant legal con- 
tent in the Qur'an is crucial since it goes 
against conventional wisdom, which asserts 
that the Qur'an acquired legal importance 
for early Muslims only toward the end of 
the first century a.h. (ca. 720 C.E.). Even in 
Mecca (q.v.), the Prophet already thought 
of the community he aimed to create in 
terms of a political and social unit (see 
relations). This explains his success in 
organizing the Arab and Jewish tribes (see 
Arabs) in a body politic immediately after 
arriving in Medina (q.v). The constitution 
that he drafted in this city betrays a mind 
very familiar with formulaic legal docu- 
ments, a fact that is hardly surprising in 
light of the legal thrust of the Qur'an and 
the role he had played as an arbitration 
judge [hakam, see justice and injustice; 
muhammad). In Medina, he continued to 



play this role for some time, relying in his 
decisions, so it seems, on customary law 
and tribal practices hitherto prevailing. But 
from the Qur'an we learn that at a certain 
point of time after his arrival in Medina 
the Prophet came to think of his message 
as one that carried with it the law of God, 
just as did the Torah (q.v.) and the Gospel 
(q.v.). Sura 5, revealed at Medina, marshals 
a list of commands, admonitions and ex- 
plicit prohibitions concerning a great vari- 
ety of issues, from eating swine meat to 
theft (see food and drink; lawful and 
unlawful; prohibited degrees; 
boundaries and preuepts). References to 
the Jews and Christians (see christians 
and Christianity), and their respective 
scriptures recur throughout. In o 5:43 God 
asks, with a sense of astonishment, why the 
Jews resort to Muhammad in his capacity 
as a judge "when they have the Torah 
which contains the judgment (q.v.) of 
God." The Quran continues: "We have 
revealed the Torah in which there is guid- 
ance and light (q.v.), by which the prophets 
who surrendered [to God] judged the Jews, 
and the rabbis and priests judged by such 
of God's scriptures (see book) as they were 
bidden to observe" (ft 5:44). In ft 5:46, the 
Qur'an addresses the Christians, saying in 
effect that God sent Jesus (q.v.) to confirm 
the prophethood (see prophets and 
prophethood) of Moses (q.v), and the 
Gospel to reassert the "guidance and 
advice" revealed in the Torah. "So let the 
people of the Gospel judge by that which 
God had revealed therein, for whosoever 
judged not by that which God revealed: 
such are sinners" (ft 5:47). 

This is sufficient to show that the Prophet 
not only considered the Jews and Chris- 
tians as possessing their own divine law but 
also as bound by the application of this 
law. If the Jews and Christians each have 
their own law, then what about Muslims? 
The Qur'an here does not shirk from giv- 

ing an explicit answer: "We have revealed 
unto you the book (viz. the Qur'an) with 
the truth, confirming whatever scripture 
was before it... so judge between them by 
that which God had revealed, and do not 
follow their desires away from the truth... 
for we have made for each of you (i.e. Muslims, 
Christians and Jews) a law and a normative 
way to follow. If God had willed, he would 
have made all of you one community" 
(ft 5:48). But God did not wish to do so, 
and he thus created three communities 
with three sets of laws, so that each com- 
munity could follow its own law. And like 
the Christians and Jews, the Prophet is 
again commanded (repeatedly throughout 
the Qur'an) to judge by what God revealed 
to him, for "who is better than God in 
judgment?" (ft 5:49-50). 

Sura 5, or at least verses 42-50 therein, 
seems to have been precipitated by an inci- 
dent in which certain Jewish tribes resorted 
to the Prophet to adjudicate among them. 
It is unlikely that such an event would have 
taken place any later than 5 A.H., since the 
repeated references to rabbis implies a con- 
text of time when there remained a sub- 
stantial Jewish presence in Medina, which 
could not have been the case after this 
date. Be that as it may, the incident seems 
to have marked a turning point in the 
career of the Prophet, and from that 
point on he began to think of his religion 
as one that should afford the Muslim 
community a set of laws separate from 
those of other religions. This may also 
account for the fact that it is in Medina 
that the overwhelming bulk of qur'anic 
legislation occurred (see chronology 


Muhammad and the caliphs and the law 
Although the Qur'an did not provide Mus- 
lims with an all-encompassing system of 
law, the evidence suggests that the Prophet 



was strongly inclined to move in that direc- 
tion. This inclination finds eloquent testi- 
mony in the stand of the Qur'an on the 
matter of the consumption of date- and 
grape-wine. In the Meccan phase, wines 
were obviously permitted: "From date- 
palm and grapes you derive alcoholic 
drinks, and from them you make good live- 
lihood (rizqan hasanan). Lo! therein is in- 
deed a portent for people who have sense" 
(q 16:67). In Medina, the position of the 
Qur'an changes, expressing a growing dis- 
trust toward alcoholic beverages. "They 
ask you (viz. Muhammad) about wine 
(khamr) and gambling (q.v; maysir). Say: 
'In both there is sin (see sin, major and 
minor), and utility for people' " (q_ 2:219). 
The sense of aversion increases further: 
"O you who believe (see belief and 
unbelief), do not come to pray when you 
are drunken, till you know what you utter" 
(q 4:43). Here, one observes a provisional 
prohibition against the consumption of 
alcohol only at times when Muslims in- 
tended to pray (see prayer). Finally, a cat- 
egorical command is revealed in q 5:90-1, 
whereby Muslims are to avoid alcohol, 
games of chance (see divination; 
foretelling) and idols altogether (see 
idols and images; idolatry and idol- 
aters). It is interesting that the final, deci- 
sive stand on alcohol occurs in sura 5 which, 
as we have seen, marks a turning point in 
the legislative outlook of the Prophet. 

This turning point, however, should not 
be seen as constituting an entirely clean 
break from the previous practices of the 
Prophet, for he already played the role of a 
judge, both as a traditional arbitrator as 
well as a prophet. The turning point only 
marked the beginning of a new process 
whereby all events affecting the nascent 
Muslim community had therefore to be 
adjudicated according to God's law, whose 
agent was none other than the Prophet. 
This is clearly attested to not only in the 

Qur'an but also in the so-called Constitu- 
tion of Medina, a document whose au- 
thenticity can hardly be contested. 

That all matters should have been subject 
to the divine and prophetic decree must 
not be taken to mean that all the old prob- 
lems encountered by the Prophet were 
given new solutions. Although a historical 
record of this early period is lacking in 
credibility (see history and the qur'an; 
hadith and the qur'an), we may assert 
that, with the exception of what may be 
called the qur'anic legal reform, the 
Prophet generally followed existing pre- 
Islamic Arab practices. Indeed, one might 
argue that while these practices constituted 
the bulk of prevalent norms, the qur'anic 
legislation constituted nothing more than a 
supplement. It was not until later that pre- 
Islamic Arab practices were Islamicized by 
their inclusion under the rubric of pro- 
phetic sunna (q.v.). 

Before the prophetic sunna came to play 
an important role in the law, and even 
while the conquests were underway and 
Medina was still the capital, there were 
mainly two sets of laws on the basis of 
which the leaders of the nascent Muslim 
community modeled their conduct, 
namely, pre-Islamic Arab customary law 
and the Qur'an. The former was by and 
large the only "system" of law known to 
the conquerors, while the latter contained 
and symbolized the mission in whose name 
these conquerors were fighting (q.v.; see 
also expeditions and battles). The im- 
portance of the Qur'an and its injunctions 
for the early Muslims can hardly be over- 
stated. Early Monophysite sources inform 
us that when Abu Bakr, the first caliph 
(q.v; d. 13/634), deployed his armies to 
conquer Syria (q.v), he addressed his gen- 
erals with the following words: "When you 
enter the land, kill neither old man nor 

child Establish a covenant with every 

city and people who receives you, give 



them your assurances and let them live 

according to their laws Those who do 

not receive you, you are to fight, conduct- 
ing yourselves carefully in accordance with 
the ordinances and upright laws trans- 
mitted to you from God, at the hands of 
our Prophet" (Brock, Syriac views, 12, 200; 
see war). It is interesting to observe that in 
this passage the reference to the Qur'an is 
unambiguous, although one is not entirely 
sure whether or not the "upright laws" 
might refer in part to legal ordinances 
other than those laid down in the Qur an. 
But even more interesting is the contrast 
drawn between the laws of the conquered 
nations and the law transmitted from God 
through the Prophet. Abu Bakr's orders to 
allow the mainly Christian inhabitants of 
Syria to regulate their affairs by their own 
laws is rather reminiscent of the Qur'an's 
discourse in sura 5, where each religion 
was to apply to itself its own set of laws. 
Here, Abu Bakr was implicitly and, later in 
the passage, explicitly adhering to the 
Qur'an's letter and spirit, and in a sense to 
the personal stand adopted by the Prophet 
on this issue which is inextricably con- 
nected with the very act of revelation (see 

The early caliphs, including the Umay- 
yads, considered themselves the deputies of 
God on earth, and thus seem to have felt 
free to dispense justice in accordance with 
the Qur'an. Abu Bakr, in consonance with 
the wishes expressed in his speech to the 
army of Syria, seems to have adhered, as a 
rule, to the prescriptions of the Qur'an. 
Among other things, he enforced the pro- 
hibition on alcohol and fixed the penalty 
for its violation at forty lashes (see 
enforcing the law in this case indicates the 
centrality of the qur'anic injunctions, it 
also demonstrates that beyond the very 
fact of the qur'anic prohibition (see for- 
bidden) there was little juristic experience 

or guidance to go by. For this punishment, 
deemed to have been fixed arbitrarily, was 
soon altered by c Umar and All (see 'ali b. 
abi talib) to eighty lashes, the reasoning 
being, so it seems, that intoxication was 
deemed analogous to the offense of falsely 
accusing a person of committing adultery 
(qadkf), for which the Qur'an fixed the 
penalty of eighty lashes. 'Umar was not 
only the first to impose the new penalty for 
inebriation but he is also reported to have 
forcefully insisted on strict adherence to 
the Qur'an in matters of ritual, which 
became an integral part of the law. 

The increasing importance of the Qur'an 
as a religious and legal text manifested 
itself in the need to collect the scattered 
material of the book and thence to estab- 
lish a vulgate (see collection of the 
qjjr'an; codices of the q_ur'an). 'Uth- 
man (q.v), who followed in the steps of his 
two predecessors in enforcing the rulings of 
the Qur'an, took it upon himself to dis- 
charge this task. The collection of the 
Qur'an must have had a primary legal sig- 
nificance, for it defined the subject matter 
of the text and thus gave the legally- 
minded a textus receptus on which to draw. 
The monumental event of establishing a 
vulgate signified the beginning of what 
may be described as the textual attention 
accorded the Qur'an (see traditional 
MAR AND THE qjjr'an). This attention 
reached its zenith only centuries later, but 
the decades that followed the event deter- 
mined the direction of what was to come. 

During the ensuing decades, Muslim men 
of learning turned their attention to the 
explicit legal contents of the Qur'an. The 
paucity of credible sources from this 
period does not allow us to form a com- 
prehensive picture of the developments 
in qur'anic studies. The scope of activities 



that took place in connection with the de- 
velopment of the theory of abrogation 
(q.v.), however, may give us some clues as 
to the extent to which the Qur'an played a 
role in elaborating Islamic jurisprudence. 

Origins of the theory of abrogation 
The rudimentary beginnings of the theory 
of abrogation seem to have arisen in re- 
sponse to the need for reconciling what 
appeared to the early Muslims to be seem- 
ing contradictions within the body of legal 
verses in the Qur'an. The most immediate 
concern for these Muslims was neither 
theology nor dogma (see faith; creeds), 
for these were matters that acquired signi- 
ficance only later. Rather, their primary 
interest lay in how they might realize or 
manifest obedience (q.v.) to their God, a 
duty that was explicitly stressed in the 
Qur'an. In other words, Islam meant, even 
as early as the middle of the first century, 
adherence to the will of God as articulated 
in his book. Thus it was felt necessary to 
determine what the stand of the Qur'an 
was with regard to particular issues. Where 
there was more than one qur'anic decree 
pertinent to a single matter, such a deter- 
mination was no easy task. And to solve 
such difficulties, it was essential to deter- 
mine which verses might be deemed to 
repeal others in the text of the Qur'an. 
The Companions of the Prophet (q.v.) 
are reported to have provided the impetus 
to such discussions. But the Muslim sources 
make relatively few references to the activi- 
ties of the Companions in this field. It was 
the generation of the Successors that be- 
came most closely associated with discus- 
sions on abrogation, and with controversies 
about the status of particular verses (see 
medieval). The names of Ibrahim al- 
Nakha'i (d. 95/713), Muslim b. Yasar 
(d. 101/719), Mujahid b. Jabr (d. 104/722), 
and al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728) were 

among the most prominent in such dis- 
cussions. Qatada b. Di'ama al-Sadusi 
(d. 117/735) an d 'he renowned Ibn Shihab 
al-Zuhrl (d. 124/742) also left writings that 
attest to the birth of the theory of abroga- 
tion, which by their time had already been 
articulated in writing. Though their origi- 
nal works were likely subjected to revision 
by later writers, the core of their thought 
has proven difficult to dismiss as inau- 
thentic. Even if this core is reduced to a 
minimum, it nonetheless manifests an 
awareness on the part of these scholars 
of the legal thrust of the qur'anic text. 
For it is clear that the treatises were exclu- 
sively concerned with the ramifications of 
those verses that had direct bearing on 
legal issues. 

The theory of abrogation appears to 
have developed in a context in which some 
qur'anic prescriptions contradicted the 
actual reality and practices of the com- 
munity, thus giving rise to the need for 
interpreting away, or canceling out, the 
effect of those verses seen to be discordant 
with other verses more in line with certain 
practices. Whatever the case may have 
been, the very nature of this theory points 
up the fact that whatever contradiction or 
problem needed to be settled, it had to be 
settled within the purview of qur'anic au- 
thority. This accords with the assertion that 
the Umayyad caliphs not only saw them- 
selves as the deputies of God on earth, and 
thus the instruments for carrying out God's 
justice as embodied in the Qur'an, but also 
as the propounders of the law in its (then) 
widest sense. In addition to fiscal laws and 
rules of war, they regularly concerned 
themselves with establishing and enforc- 
ing rules regarding marriage, divorce, suc- 
cession, manumission (see slaves and 
slavery), pre-emption, blood money (q.v.), 
ritual and other matters. The promulga- 
tion of these rules could only have been 
carried out in the name of the lord on 



whose behalf these caliphs claimed to 
serve as deputies. 

The Qur'an in legal theory 
With the evolution of the doctrine of abro- 
gation and other aspects of qur'anic legal 
studies, legal theory (usul al-fiqh) began to 
emerge during the second/eighth and 
third/ninth centuries. In this theory, the 
Qur'an occupied a central role as the first 
source of the law, and this because, logi- 
cally and ontologically, everything else 
either depends on or derives from it. Just 
as consensus and the inferential method 
of juridical qiyas were justified by means 
of prophetic sunna, this sunna, together 
with its derivatives, were justified by the 
Qur'an. The explicit commands to obey 
the Prophet and to emulate his behavior 
ensured that the apostolic example (see 
messenger) became a source of law which 
supplements, in substantive terms, the 
qur'anic legal content, and guarantees, in 
theoretical terms, the authoritativeness 
(hujjiyyaj of other legal sources subsidiary 
to it. The chain of authority thus begins 
with God's book in which his attribute 
of speech (q.v.; see also god and his 
attributes; word of god) not only 
manifests itself but is also made identical 
with the law. 

Qur'anic authority 
The Qur'an also guarantees the authori- 
tativeness of the legal sources in episte- 
mological terms. Metaphysically, God's 
existence is assumed to be apodictically 
demonstrated, which entails the certainty 
that the Qur'an is an embodiment of 
God's speech. That the Qur'an is known 
with certainty to embody one of the most 
essential of God's attributes does not nec- 
essarily entail the conclusion that its sub- 
ject matter, as known to the post-apostolic 
community, is certain. It is after all ac- 
knowledged as conceivable that its con- 

tents, or portions thereof, may have been 
forgotten or distorted, just as the Chris- 
tians and Jews are said to have corrupted 
their own scriptures (see corruption; 
forgery). As a safeguard against such 
distortions and omissions, or perhaps in 
defense of qur'anic authenticity, among 
other things, legal theory developed the 
doctrine of multiple, recurrent transmis- 
sion, known as tawatur. According to this 
doctrine, three conditions must be met for 
the tawatur transmission to take place. First, 
the channels of transmission must be suffi- 
ciently numerous as to preclude any possi- 
bility of error (q.v.) or collaboration on a 
forgery. Second, the very first class of 
transmitters had to have received sensory 
knowledge (see seeing and hearing) of 
what the Prophet declared to be revelation. 
Third, these two conditions must be met at 
each stage of transmission beginning with 
the first class and ending with the present 

The recurrent mode of transmission 
yields necessary, certain knowledge, so that 
the mind, upon receiving reported infor- 
mation of this type, need not even exercise 
its faculty of reasoning and reflection. 
Upon hearing recurrent transmissions of 
the verses, the mind has no choice but to 
admit the contents of the verses a priori as 
true and genuine. Unlike acquired knowl- 
edge, which occurs to the mind only after it 
conducts inferential operations, necessary 
knowledge is lodged in the mind spontane- 
ously (see knowledge and learning). 
Thus, upon hearing a verse, or for that 
matter any report, from a single transmit- 
ter, one is presumed to have gained proba- 
ble knowledge of its contents and its 
authenticity. In order to reach a level of 
necessary knowledge, the verse must be 
transmitted a sufficient number of times 
and each time by a different transmitter. 
Thus, the Qur'an's expansive assimila- 
tion in the Muslim community, in both 



synchronic and diachronic terms, guaran- 
tees the certainty of its contents in the 
sense that its language is passed down 
through generations of Muslims in com- 
plete and accurate fashion (see truth). 

But does this guarantee certitude in con- 
struing the signification of its language? 
Qur'anic legal language, the jurists ad- 
mitted, suffers in many instances from 
ambiguity — a situation that gave rise to 
the taxonomy known as muhkam /mutashabih 
(clear/ambiguous). According to this tax- 
onomy, the Quran contains univocal and 
equivocal language, the former having the 
epistemological status of certainty because 
it is capable of but one interpretation 
yielding a single, unquestionable meaning. 
The latter, however, is merely probable 
since it lends itself to be construed in more 
than one way. Thus, in theory, the qur'anic 
language distinguishes itself from pro- 
phetic hadlth in that while it includes both 
muhkam and mutashabih — a problem which 
also pervades the hadlth — its transmission 
is deemed to be ever certain, whereas the 
hadlth 's transmission is considered to be 
often, if not dominantly, suspect (see 

Fashioned thus, the theoretical discourse 
was agenda-laden. In order to exclude 
probability from the mode of qur'anic 
transmission, the text was to be defined by 
the very terms of the transmission that 
guaranteed its certainty. In other words, 
instead of including in the qur'anic text 
material that could be defined as probable, 
the textus receptus was limited to that body of 
material that was considered to have un- 
dergone tawatur transmission. The admit- 
tedly insignificant material that boasted 
only probabilistic status, such as Ibn 
Mas'ud's (d. 32/652-3) recension, was 
a priori excluded from the textus receptus. 
Dubious recensions were to be treated as 
equivalent to prophetic hadlths, the justifi- 
cation being that such Companions as 

Ibn Mas'fld may have thought that the 
material they had heard from the Prophet 
was qur'anic when in fact it was from 
the sunna. 

Be that as it may, the qur'anic text pre- 
sented the jurist with no problem insofar 
as transmission and authenticity were con- 
cerned. Rather, the difficulty was with 
hermeneutics; i.e. how to interpret the 
qur'anic language in the ultimate task of 
constructing legal norms. The aim of 
linguistic interpretation is to determine 
whether, for instance, a word is ambiguous, 
univocal, general, particular, constituting a 
trope, a command, etc. Each word is ana- 
lyzed in light of one or more of these cate- 
gories, one of the first being the category 
of tropes. The great majority of legal theo- 
rists maintain that most words in the Ara- 
bic language are used in their real sense 
and that metaphorical language is limited. 
Some jurists, however, such as Abu Ishaq 
al-Isfara'lnl (d. 418/1027), are reported to 
have taken the position that tropes do not 
occur in the Arabic language, the implica- 
tion being that the Qur'an is free of meta- 
phors (see metaphor). A few others admit 
the existence of metaphors in the language 
but reject the claim that the Quran con- 
tains any such words. The majority, how- 
ever, hold the position that the Qur'an 
does contain metaphors, and in support of 
this they adduce, among others, q 19:4: 
'And the head has flared up with grey 
hair." It is obvious that the head itself does 
not "flare up" and that the metaphor issues 
from the substitution of fire (q.v.) for hair. 

Words used in their real meanings are 
said to be either clear (mubayyan, mufassar) 
or ambiguous (mujmal). The latter category 
encompasses all expressions the denota- 
tions of which are so general and imprecise 
that the hearer would be expected to un- 
derstand neither the intention of the 
speaker nor the point being made. The 
ambiguity stems from the fact that the ref- 



erent in the case of such words includes 
several attributes or different genera. In 
Q_ 17:33: "And he who is killed wrongfully, 
we have given power (sultan) to his heir," 
the term "power" (see power and impo- 
tence) is utterly ambiguous, since it could 
refer to a variety of genera, such as reta- 
liation (q.v), right to blood money, or even 
the right to pardon the murderer. This 
ambiguity explains why mujmal words 
tend to prevent texts containing them 
from having binding legal effect, for the 
ruling or the subject of that ruling derived 
from them would not be sufficiently clear 
as to enable Muslim jurists to understand 
what exactly is being commanded. It is 
only when such words are brought out of 
the realm of ambiguity into that of clar- 
ity by means of other clear "speech" that 
the legal effects of mujmal texts become 

Ambiguity is the result not only of the 
use of vague language, as evidenced in the 
aforementioned verse, but also of homony- 
mous nouns that designate more than one 
object. An example illustrating the diffi- 
culty is the Arabic word 'ayn, which equally 
refers to an eye (see eyes), to the spring 
(see springs and fountains) from which 
water issues, and to a distinguished person 
of noble lineage. Furthermore, ambiguity 
may accrue to an otherwise clear expres- 
sion by virtue of the fact that it is associ- 
ated with an ambiguous statement. For 
instance, Q_ 5:1: "The beast of cattle is 
made lawful unto you (for food)" is, as it 
stands, fairly clear. Immediately thereafter, 
however, the verse continues with the 
statement: "except for that which is un- 
announced for you," thus rendering the 
earlier statement ambiguous, since what is 
unannounced cannot be known without 
further documentation. 

Univocal language in the texts of revela- 
tion is known as nass, since its meaning is 
so clear as to engender certitude in the 

mind. When we hear the word "four" we 
automatically know that it is neither three 
nor five, nor any other number. To know 
what "four" means we have no need for 
other language to explain the denotation of 
the word. It is self-sufficiently clear. Against 
those few who maintained that the nass 
rarely occurs in connection with legal 
matters, the majority of jurists argue that 
univocal language is quite abundant in 
the texts. 

Equivocal words 
Words whose signification is not readily 
obvious are of two types, the first of which 
includes those whose meaning is so general 
('amm) that they need to be particularized if 
they are to yield any legal effects. The sec- 
ond type includes words with two or more 
possible meanings, one of which — the 
lahir — is deemed, by virtue of supporting 
evidence, superior to the others. Words 
that equally include two or more individu- 
als of the genus to which they refer are 
deemed general ('amm). Thus all plurals ac- 
companied by a definite article are general 
terms, e.g. al-muslimun, "the Muslims." 
Some jurists considered words of this kind 
to belong to the category of the general 
even when not accompanied by a definite 
article. In addition to its function of defin- 
ing words, this article serves, in the Arabic 
language, to render words applicable to all 
members of a class. Accordingly, when the 
article is attached to singular nouns, these 
nouns will refer to the generality of indi- 
viduals within a certain class. Al-insdn or 
al-muslim thus refers not to a particular 
individual but, respectively, to human be- 
ings or to Muslims generally. Yet another 
group of words considered to be general is 
that of the interrogative particles, classified 
in Arabic as nouns. 

A general word in the Quran may be 
particularized only by means of relevant 
words or statements provided by the 


I 5 8 

revealed texts. By relevant is meant words 
or statements that apply to the same genus 
denoted by the general word. Particular- 
ization (takhsis) thus means exclusion from 
the general of a part that was subsumed 
under that general. For example, while in 
Q_ 2:238, which reads "Perform prayers, as 
well as the midmost prayer (see noon)," 
the midmost prayer is specified, it cannot 
be said to have been particularized. Partic- 
ularization would have applied if the verse 
had been revealed as saying "Perform 
prayers except for the midmost one." 

A classic example of particularization oc- 
curs in o_ 5:3, "Forbidden unto you (for 
food) is carrion," which was particularized 
by a prophetic report allowing the con- 
sumption, among others, of dead fish (see 
hunting and fishing). This example also 
makes clear that such reports, including 
solitary ones, can, at least according to 
some jurists, particularize the Qur'an. Sim- 
ilarly, the Qur'an can, as one can expect, 
particularize the sunna. Indeed, the vast 
majority of jurists held that statements in 
one of the two sources could particularize 
statements in the other. 

There are at least two other types of par- 
ticularization that apply to two different 
texts. The first type of particularization 
takes place when a proviso or a condition 
(shart) is attached to, or brought to bear 
upon, a general statement. C3 3:97, for ex- 
ample, reads: "And pilgrimage (q.v.) to the 
house (see ka'ba; house, domestic and 
divine) is a duty unto God for mankind, 
for him who can find a way thither." It is 
plain here that the obligation to go on pil- 
grimage is waived in the case of those who 
have no means to perform it. The second 
type, on the other hand, is particulariza- 
tion by means of introducing into the gen- 
eral statement, not a condition, but a 
quality (sifa). This is known as the qualifi- 
cation (taqyid) of an unrestricted (mutlaq) 
word or statement. For instance, in cases 

where a man swears not to resume a nor- 
mal marital relationship with his wife 
(gihar), but later does, the penalty fixed in 
the Qur'an is "freeing a slave" (q_ 58:3). 
But the penalty for accidental homicide 
is "freeing a believing slave" (q 4:92). The 
attribute "believing" has qualified, or par- 
ticularized, the word "slave." 

When a qualifying attribute is to be 
found nowhere in the texts, the unre- 
stricted expression must be taken to refer 
to the general category subsumed under 
that expression. And when a qualified 
word appears without an object to qualify, 
the word must be taken to apply only to 
that case which is subject to the qualifica- 
tion. Some difficulties arise, however, con- 
cerning the extent to which the principle of 
qualification should be applied when an 
unrestricted word meets with a qualifying 
attribute. In Q_ 58:4, it is stipulated that the 
penalty for phar is either "fasting (q.v.) for 
two successive months (q.v.)" or "feeding 
sixty needy persons." Unlike the general 
command to feed sixty persons, fasting 
here is qualified by the requirement that it 
be successive. Since these are two different 
types of penance (see repentance and 
penance), one relating to feeding, the 
other to fasting, the qualification applica- 
ble to the latter must not be extended to 
the former. But when the two penances (or 
rulings) are of the same nature, the attri- 
bute must be taken to qualify the unre- 
stricted word or sentence. For instance, 
Q_ 2:282: "have witnesses (attest to the sale) 
when you sell one to another" is qualified 
by an earlier passage in the same verse 
stipulating "call to witness, from among 
you, two witnesses, and if two men are not 
available, then a man and two women" (see 

In this case, both the qualified and the 
unrestricted rulings are one and the same, 
and they pertain to a single case, namely, 
concluding a contract of sale (see selling 

r 59 


AND buying). But what would the interpre- 
tative attitude be in a situation where the 
qualified and unrestricted rulings are iden- 
tical but the cases which give rise to them 
are different? Such is the case with pillar 
and accidental homicide. The penalty for 
the former is "freeing a slave" whereas for 
the latter it is "freeing a believing slave" 
(O. 58-3, 4 : 92). In such an event, the latter 
must be considered to qualify the former, a 
consideration said to be grounded in rea- 
soning, not in the actual language of the 
texts. That is to say, in the contract of sale 
God made it clear in the language (lafe) of 
the Qur'an that a witness of a certain sort 
is meant, but in ^ihar and accidental homi- 
cide there is no provision of specific lan- 
guage to this effect; the jurist merely 
reasons, on the basis of the text, that this 
was God's intention. 

We have said that equivocal words are 
classifiable into two broad categories, one 
encompassing general terms ('dmm), to- 
gether with those that may be called unre- 
stricted (mufassal), and the other including 
words that are capable of more than one 
interpretation. Through a process of inter- 
pretation, technically known as ta'wil, one 
of the meanings, the £dhir, is deemed by 
the interpreter to be the most likely among 
the candidates, because it presents evi- 
dence that is absent in the case of the 
other possible meanings. An example of 
this sort of evidence would be language 
that takes the imperative (arm) or prohi- 
bitive (nahy) form, to mention the two 
most significant linguistic types in legal 

The jurists are unanimous in their view 
that revelation is intended to lay down a 
system of obligation and that the impera- 
tive and the prohibitive forms (whose 
prototypes, respectively, are "Do" and 
"Do not do") constitute the backbone of 
that system's deontology. Without coming 
to grips with the hermeneutical ramifica- 

tions of these two forms, obedience to 
God can never be achieved. For it is chiefly 
through these that God chose to express 
the greatest part of his revelation. 

Commands and prohibitions 
Perhaps the most important question with 
regard to the imperative form was its legal 
effect. When someone commands another 
by saying "Do this," should this be con- 
strued as falling only within the legal value 
of the obligatory (wdjib) or also within that 
of the recommended (mandub) or the indif- 
ferent (mubah)? The Qur'an states "Hold 
the prayer" (q_ 2:43), a phrase that was 
unanimously understood to convey an obli- 
gation. At the same time, the Qur'an stipu- 
lates "Write (your slaves a contract of 
emancipation) if you are aware of any 
good in them" (q 24:33), language which 
was construed as a recommendation. Fur- 
thermore, in Q_ 5:2, the statement "When 
you have left the sacred precinct, then go 
hunting" was taken to indicate that hunt- 
ing outside the Ka'ba is an act to which the 
law is indifferent. 

Adducing such texts as proof, a minority 
among the jurists held that the imperative 
form in qur'anic language is a homonym, 
equally capable of indicating obligation, 
recommendation and indifference. Others 
maintained that it signifies only recom- 
mendation. The majority of jurists, how- 
ever, rejected these positions and held the 
imperative to be an instrument for decree- 
ing only obligatory acts. Whenever the 
imperative is construed as inducing a legal 
value other than obligation, this construal 
would have to be based on evidence extra- 
neous to the imperative form in question. 
Conversely, whenever the imperative form 
stands apart from any contextual evidence 
(qarlna), it must be presumed to convey an 

Once adopted by the majority, the posi- 
tion that the imperative form, in the 



absence of contextual evidence, indicates 
obligation was given added support by 
arguments developed by a number of lead- 
ing jurists. The chief argument (drawn, as 
would be expected, from both the Qur'an 
and the sunna) is that when God com- 
manded Muslims to perform certain acts, 
he meant them as obligations that can only 
be violated on pain of punishment: "When 
it is said unto them: Bow down, they bow 
not down! Woe unto the repudiators on 
that day" (q, 77:48-9). 

A corollary of the determination of lin- 
guistic signification is that the jurist needs 
to reconcile conflicting texts relevant to a 
particular case whose solution is pending. 
He must first attempt to harmonize them 
so that each may be brought to bear upon 
a solution to the case. But should the texts 
prove to be so contradictory as to be inca- 
pable of harmonization, the jurist must 
resort to the theory of abrogation (naskh) 
with a view to determining which of the 
two texts repeals the other. Thus, abroga- 
tion involves the replacement of one text, 
which would have otherwise had a legal 
effect, by another one embodying a legal 
value contradictory to the first. 

Elaboration of the theory of abrogation 
The juridical justification for the theory of 
abrogation derives from the common idea, 
sanctioned by consensus, that the religion 
of Islam abrogated many, and sometimes 
all, of the laws upheld by the earlier reli- 
gions (see scripture and the q_ur'an; 

is a fundamental creed, furthermore, that 
Islam not only deems these religions legiti- 
mate but also considers itself to be the 
bearer of their legacy. That the Prophet 
repealed his predecessors' laws therefore 
goes to prove that abrogation is a valid her- 
meneutical instrument, one which is speci- 
fically approved in q 2:106: "Such of our 
revelation as we abrogate or cause to be 

forgotten, we bring (in place) one better or 
the like thereof," and Q_ 16:101: "When we 
put a revelation in place of another, and 
God knows best what he reveals, they say: 
'Lo, you are but inventing. Most of them 
know not.' " These verses were taken to 
show that abrogation is applicable to reve- 
lation within Islam. 

It must be stressed that the wide majority 
of jurists espoused the view that it is not 
the texts themselves which are actually 
abrogated, but rather the legal rulings 
comprised in these texts. The text qua text 
is not subject to repeal, for to argue that 
God revealed conflicting and even contra- 
dictory statements would entail that one of 
the statements is false, which would in turn 
lead to the highly objectionable conclusion 
that God has revealed an untruth. 

Why there should be, in the first place, 
conflicting and even contradictory rulings 
is not a question in which the jurists were 
very interested. That such rulings existed, 
however, was undeniable and that they 
should be made to abrogate one another 
was deemed a necessity. The criteria that 
determined which text abrogates another 
mainly revolved around the chronology of 
qur'anic revelation and the diachronic 
sequence of the Prophet's career. Certain 
later texts simply abrogated earlier ones. 

But is it possible that behind abrogation 
there are latent divine considerations at 
work mitigating the severity of the re- 
pealed rulings? Only a minority of jurists 
appears to have maintained that since God 
is merciful and compassionate he aimed at 
reducing hardships for his creatures (see 
mercy). Abrogating a lenient ruling by a 
less lenient or a harsher one would run 
counter to his attribute as a merciful God. 
Besides, God himself had pronounced that 
"He desires for you ease, and he desires no 
hardship" (o_ 2:185). Accordingly, repealing 
a ruling by a harsher one would contra- 
vene his own pronouncement. Their oppo- 



nents, however, rejected this argument. 
They maintained that to say that God 
cannot repeal a ruling by another which 
involves added hardship would be tanta- 
mount to saying that he cannot, or does 
not, impose hardships in his law, and this is 
plainly false. Furthermore, this argument 
would lead to the absurd conclusion that 
he cannot cause someone to be ill after 
having been healthy or blind after having 
enjoyed perfect vision (see illness and 
health; vision and blindness). They 
reject the aforementioned qur'anic verse 
(o_ 2:185) as an invalid argument since it 
bears exclusively upon hardships involved 
in a quite specific and limited context, 
namely, the fast of Ramadan (q.v.). They 
likewise reject their opponents' interpreta- 
tion of the qur'anic verse 2:106, which 
states that God abrogates a verse only to 
introduce in its place another that is either 
similar to, or better than it. What is "bet- 
ter," they argue, is not necessarily that 
which is more lenient and more agreeable 
but rather that which is ultimately more 
rewarding in this life and in the hereafter 
(see reward and punishment; eschato- 
logy). And since the reward is greater, it 
may well be that the abrogating text com- 
prises a less lenient ruling than that which 
was abrogated. 

Criteria for abrogation 
If God's motives for abrogation cannot be 
determined, then these motives cannot 
serve to establish which of the two conflict- 
ing legal rulings should repeal the other. 
The criteria of abrogation must thus rest 
elsewhere. The first, and most convincing 
criterion may be found in an explicit state- 
ment in the abrogating text, stating, for 
instance, that it was revealed specifically in 
order to repeal another. The second is the 
chronological order of revelation, namely, 
that a later text, in point of time, repeals 
an earlier one. The difficulty that arises 

here is to determine the chronology of 
texts. The first obvious evidence is one that 
appears in the text itself, as with the previ- 
ous criterion. But such explicit statements 
are admittedly difficult to come by. Most 
conflicting texts therefore have to be dated 
by external evidence. 

The third criterion is consensus. Should 
the community, represented by its scholars, 
agree to adopt one ruling in preference to 
another, then the latter is deemed abro- 
gated since the community cannot agree 
on an error. The very fact of abandoning 
one ruling in favor of another is tanta- 
mount to abrogating the disfavored ruling. 
A number of jurists, however, rejected con- 
sensus as having the capability to abrogate, 
their argument being that any consensus 
must be based on the revealed texts, and if 
these texts contain no evidence of abroga- 
tion in the first place, then consensus as a 
sanctioning instrument cannot decide in 
such a matter. To put it differently, since 
consensus cannot go beyond the evidence 
of the texts, it is the texts and only the texts 
that determine whether or not one ruling 
can abrogate another. If a ruling subject to 
consensus happened to abrogate another 
conflicting ruling, the abrogation would be 
based on evidence existing in the texts, not 
on consensus. 

If consensus is rejected as incapable on 
its own of abrogating a ruling, it is because 
of a cardinal principle in the theory of 
abrogation which stipulates that derivative 
principles cannot be employed to abrogate 
all or any part of the source from which 
they are derived. This explains why con- 
sensus and juridical inference (qiyas), both 
based on the Quran and the sunna, were 
deemed by the great majority of jurists, 
and in fact by mainstream Sunnism, to 
lack the power to repeal either prophetic 
reports or qur'anic verses. 

The other cardinal principle, to which 
resort is quite often made in jurisprudential 



arguments, is that an epistemologically 
inferior text cannot repeal a superior one. 
Thus a text whose truth or authenticity is 
only presumed (= probable: ganni) can by 
no means abrogate another text qualified 
as certain (qat\yaqln). On the other hand, 
texts which are considered of equal episte- 
mological value or of the same species may 
repeal one another. This principle seems to 
represent an extension of Q_ 2:106 which 
speaks of abrogating verses and replacing 
them by similar or better ones. Hence, it is 
a universal principle that, like the Quran, 
concurrent prophetic reports (mutawatir) 
may abrogate one another. The same rule 
applies in fact to solitary reports (ahad). 
Furthermore, according to the logic of this 
principle, an epistemologically superior 
text can abrogate an inferior one. Thus 
the Qur'an and the concurrent sunna may 
abrogate solitary reports, but not vice 

Within the Qur'an and the sunna, more- 
over, a text expressing a pronouncement 
(qavul) may repeal another text of the same 
species, just as a text embodying a deed 
(fi'l) may repeal another text of the same 
kind. Moreover, in conformity with the 
principle that a superior text may repeal 
an inferior one, the abrogation of a 
"deed-text" by a "pronouncement-text" is 
deemed valid. For the latter is equal to the 
former in that it represents a statement rel- 
ative to a particular ruling, but it differs 
from the former in one important respect: 
namely, that a "pronouncement-text" tran- 
scends itself and is semantically brought to 
bear upon other situations, whereas the 
"deed-text" is confined to the very situa- 
tion which gave rise to it in the first place. 
A "deed-text" bespeaks an action that has 
taken place; it is simply a statement of an 
event. A "pronouncement-text," on the 
other hand, may include a command or a 
generalization that could have ramifica- 
tions extending beyond the context in 

which it was uttered. Q_ 6:135 and 155, 
taken to be "pronouncement-texts," enjoin 
Muslims to follow the Prophet. So does 
Q_ 33:21: "Verily, in the messenger of God 
you have a good example fuswatun)." 

Since one qur'anic verse can repeal an- 
other, it was commonly held that a verse 
may abrogate a prophetic report, particu- 
larly because the Qur'an is deemed to be of 
a more distinguished stature. In justifica- 
tion of this view, some jurists further ar- 
gued that since the Qur'an is accepted as 
capable of particularizing the sunna, it 
can just as easily abrogate it. Other jurists, 
while adopting the position that the 
Qur'an can repeal the sunna, rejected the 
argument from particularization. Particu- 
larization, they held, represents an imper- 
fect analogy with abrogation — the latter 
entails a total replacement of one legal text 
by another, whereas the former does not 
involve abrogation, but merely delimits 
the scope of a text so as to render it less 

Qur'an and sunna 
The qur'anic abrogation of the sunna has 
also historical precedent to recommend it. 
One such precedent was the Prophet's 
peace treaty with the Qurayshls (see 
q_uraysh) of Mecca (q.v.) whereby he 
agreed to return to Mecca all those who 
converted to Islam as well as those who 
wished to join his camp. But just before 
sending back a group of women who had 
adopted Islam as a religion, o_ 60: 10 was 
revealed, ordering Muslims not to continue 
with their plans, thereby abrogating the 
Prophet's practice as expressed in the 
treaty. Another instance of qur'anic abro- 
gation is found in verses o_ 2:144 and 2:150, 
which command Muslims to pray in the 
direction of Mecca instead of Jerusalem 
(q.v.), the direction which the Prophet had 
earlier decreed to be valid (see qibla). 
More controversial was the question of 



whether the surma can repeal the Qur'an. 
Those who espoused the view that the 
Qur'an may not be abrogated by the sunna 
advanced Q_ 2:106 which, as we have seen, 
states that if God repeals a verse, he does 
so only to replace it by another which is 
either similar to, or better than it. The 
sunna, they maintained, is neither equal 
to, or better than the Qur'an, and thus no 
report can repeal a qur'anic verse. On the 
basis of the same verse they furthermore 
argued that abrogation rests with God 
alone, and that this precludes the Prophet 
from having the capacity to abrogate. 

On the other hand, the proponents of the 
doctrine that the sunna can abrogate the 
Qur'an rejected the view that the Prophet 
did not possess this capacity, for while it is 
true that he could act alone, he did speak 
on behalf of God when he undertook to 
abrogate a verse. The central argument 
of the proponents of this view, however, 
revolved around epistemology: both the 
Qur'an and the concurrent reports yield 
certitude, and being of equal epistemologi- 
cal status, they can abrogate each other. 
Opponents of this argument rejected it on 
the grounds that consensus also leads to 
certainty but lacks the power to repeal. 
Moreover, they maintained, the epistemo- 
logical equivalence of the two sources does 
not necessarily mean that there exists a 
mutuality of abrogation. Both solitary 
reports and qiyas, for instance, lead to 
probable knowledge, and yet the former 
may serve to abrogate, whereas the latter 
may not. The reason for this is that these 
reports in particular, and the sunna in 
general, constitute the principal source 
(asl) from which the authority for qiyas is 
derived. A derivative can by no means 
repeal its own source and since, it was 
argued, the Qur'an is the source of the 
sunna as well as superior to it, the sunna 
can never repeal the Qur'an. 

Another disagreement with far-reaching 

consequences arose concerning the ability 
of solitary reports to repeal the Qur'an 
and the concurrent sunna. One group of 
jurists, espousing the view that solitary 
reports can abrogate the Qur'an and con- 
current sunna, maintained that their posi- 
tion was defensible not only by rational 
argument but that such abrogation had 
taken place at the time of the Prophet. 
Rationally, the mere notion that a certain 
solitary report can substitute for a particu- 
lar concurrent sunna or a qur'anic verse is 
sufficient proof that this sunna or verse 
lacks the certitude that is otherwise associ- 
ated with it. Since certainty is lacking, the 
solitary report would not be epistemologi- 
cally inferior to the Qur'an and the con- 
current sunna, and therefore capable of 
abrogating the latter. It was further argued 
that solitary reports had been commonly 
accepted as capable of particularizing the 
concurrent sunna and the Qur'an, and that 
if they had the power to particularize, they 
must have the power to repeal. But the 
most convincing argument in support of 
this position was perhaps that which drew 
on the dynamics of revelation at the time 
of the Prophet. A classical case in point is 
o 2:180, which decrees that "It is pre- 
scribed for you, when death approaches 
one of you, if he has wealth, that he be- 
queath unto parents and near relatives (see 
family; kinship) in kindness." This verse, 
some jurists maintained, was abrogated by 
the solitary report "No bequest in favor of 
an heir." Since parents and near relatives 
are considered by the Qur'an as heirs, 
o 2:180 was considered repealed, this con- 
stituting clear evidence that solitary reports 
can repeal the Qur'an and, a fortiori, the 
concurrent sunna. 

The opponents of this doctrine rejected 
any argument which arrogated to solitary 
reports an epistemological status equal to 
that of the Qur'an and the concurrent 
sunna. The very possibility, they argued, of 



casting doubt on the certainty generated 
by these texts is a priori precluded. As they 
saw it, solitary reports, being presumptive 
to the core, can by no means repeal the 
Quran or concurrent reports. Further- 
more, any attempt at equating particular- 
ization with abrogation is nullified by the 
fact that particularization involves the sub- 
stitution of partial textual evidence for 
other evidence by bringing two texts to 
bear, conjointly, upon the solution of a 
given legal problem. Abrogation, in con- 
trast, and by definition, entails the com- 
plete substitution of one text for another, 
the latter becoming devoid of any legal 
effect. The example of qiyas served to 
bolster this argument: this method of legal 
inference is commonly accepted as capable 
of particularizing the Qur'an and the 
sunna but it cannot, by universal agree- 
ment, repeal these sources. Finally, oppo- 
nents of this doctrine dismissed the 
occurrence of abrogation on the basis of a 
solitary report in the case of bequests as an 
instance of faulty hermeneutics. The soli- 
tary report "No bequest in favor of an 
heir" did not, they insisted, abrogate the 
aforementioned qur'anic verse. Rather, the 
verse was abrogated by 5)4:11 which stipu- 
lates that parents, depending on the num- 
ber and the degree of relation of other 
heirs, must receive fixed shares of the 
estate after all debts have been settled and 
the bequest allocated to its beneficiary. The 
specification that the parents' shares are 
determined subsequent to the allocation of 
the bequest is ample proof that it is this 
verse which repealed Q_ 2:180, and not the 
solitary report. If anything, these jurists 
argued, this report served only to confirm 
the qur'anic abrogation, a fact made clear 
in the first part of the report — a part usu- 
ally omitted by those who used it to sup- 
port their case for the abrogation of 
qur'anic verses by solitary reports. In its 
entirety, the report reads as follows: "God 

has given each one his due right; there- 
fore, no bequest to an heir." The attribu- 
tion of the injunction to God, it is argued, 
is eloquent confirmation that the Prophet 
acknowledged and merely endorsed the 
abrogation of Q_ 2 : 1 80 by Q_ 4: 1 1 . 

The Qur'an in later legal discourse 
The preceding outline represents the 
mainstream juristic discourse on the 
Qur'an, discourse which was to dominate 
legal theory until the nineteenth century. 
Nonetheless, there were a number of theo- 
retical attempts to formulate different legal 
concepts of the Qur'an's function in law. 
The most notable and influential of these 
was al-Shatibl's (d. 790/1388) singular and 
creative doctrine. 

Al-Shatibf s holistic theory 
Going beyond the conventional, atomistic 
view of the Qur'an, al-Shatibl presents us 
with a unique theory in which the text is 
seen as an integral whole, where one verse 
or part cannot be properly understood 
without reference not only to other parts 
but also to the particular and general cir- 
cumstances in which the text was revealed 
(asbab al-nuzul). Without such a referential 
approach, the meaning of the verses and 
the intention of God behind revealing 
them will not be intelligible to the human 
mind. All this, however, presupposes full 
knowledge of the linguistic conventions 
prevalent among the Arabs during the time 
of revelation (see ARABIC language; 
language, concept of). God addressed 
the Arabs in a language they understood 
with reference to a reality that was specific- 
ally theirs, and since both language and 
reality may — and al-Shatibl implies that 
they do — differ from later usages and 
realities, the jurist must thoroughly ground 
himself in the linguistic and historic con- 
text of the Qur'an's revelation. 
Thus adequate knowledge of the Arabic 

1 65 


language and of the circumstances of 
revelation, coupled with a holistic read- 
ing of the text, can guarantee what al- 
Shatibl deems a reasonable, moderate, 
and middle-of-the-road interpretation. To 
be properly understood, a qur'anic verse 
must be viewed in light of the verses that 
preceded it in time. Passages in the text 
revealed later must therefore be explained 
in terms of the earlier ones just as the 
entire M edinan revelation must be viewed 
in light of the Qur'an's Meccan phase. 
And within each of the phases (Medinan 
and Meccan), the latter verses are to be 
interpreted only after full consideration is 
given to what was revealed earlier. An 
example of this general principle is the 
Meccan sura, Surat al-An'am (o 6, "The 
Cattle"), which embodied a holistic struc- 
ture of the universal principles (usiil kul- 
liyya) of the law. Setting aside any part of 
it will lead to blighting the entire legal 
system. When the Prophet migrated to 
Medina (see emigration), q_ 2, Surat al- 
Baqara ("The Cow"), was revealed in or- 
der to explicate the general principles of 
the law. Though some of these details ap- 
peared elsewhere, here are found specific 
laws of ritual, diet, crime, commercial 
transactions (see breaking trusts and 
contracts), marriage, etc. The universal 
principles established in Q_ 2 concerning the 
preservation of one's religion, life, mind, 
offspring and property are all confirmed 
in the sura. Thus what was revealed in 
Medina subsequent to Surat al-Baqara 
must be viewed in its light. The signifi- 
cance of chronology here can hardly be 

That the later suras and verses explain 
what was revealed prior to them in time 
leads to a certain hierarchy in the Qur'an, 
with the very early suras being the most 
comprehensive. Even if a Medinan verse 
appears general in scope, there must al- 
ways be a more general verse revealed ear- 

lier, the later verses always supplementing 
the earlier ones. The Meccan revelation 
thus constitutes the ultimate reference, par- 
ticularly those parts of it revealed at the 
outset of the Prophet's career. These latter 
lay down the most general and universal 
principles, namely, the protection of the 
right to religion, life, thought, progeny 
and property. Later revelation, particularly 
the Medinan, may complement these 
principles, but they primarily provide 
explanations and details relative to these 

Whether or not the Qur'an contains all 
the details of the law, God perfected for 
Muslims their religion by the time the last 
verse of the text was revealed. Citing Q_ 5:3, 
"Today I have perfected your religion for 
you," al-Shatibl argues that the Qur'an 
contains all the basic elements of faith, 
spiritual and practical. It treated of all 
things and, conversely, nothing that is 
essential in religion and life stands outside 
its compass. 

The logical consequence of this argu- 
ment represents no less than a complete 
relegation of the prophetic sunna to a sec- 
ondary status and al-Shatibl, to be sure, 
does reach this very conclusion. But 
though the Qur'an lays down the founda- 
tions of the law and religion, no rulings 
should be extracted from it without con- 
sulting the sunna because the latter, just 
like the Medinan revelation, provides ex- 
planation of and detailed annotation to 
the Qur'an. Nevertheless, al-Shatibl af- 
firms the completeness and self-sufficiency 
of the latter and, in consequence, rejects 
the view that the sunna offers any substan- 
tive addition to the Qur'an. 

Al-Shatibl's position here is no doubt 
novel, signaling a total departure from the 
conventional view propounded in legal 
theory. He asserts that in the jurisprudent's 
reasoning about individual legal cases, the 
Qur'an merits attention before the sunna. 


1 66 

The latter's demotion to second place here 
is the result of the higher degree of certi- 
tude the Qur'an enjoys. While both 
sources as a whole are certain, the individual 
verses possess a degree of certitude higher 
than that enjoyed by individual prophetic 

The traditional doctrine of legal theory 
affirms that when the Qur'an is ambiguous 
on a particular matter, or when it fails to 
address a given problem with exactitude 
and clarity, the sunna intervenes to deter- 
mine the specific intent of the divine law- 
giver. A case in point is the qur'anic 
injunction to cut off the thief's hand. The 
sunna delimited the qur'anic instruction by 
decreeing that the punishment can only be 
imposed when theft is accompanied by 
breaking and entering and when the value 
of the stolen goods exceeds a certain pre- 
scribed amount. In the same vein, the gen- 
eral qur'anic permission for matrimony 
was narrowed down by the sunna in the 
form of a ban on marriage with the mater- 
nal or paternal aunt of one's wife. Al- 
Shatibl does accept the authority of the 
sunna in such cases, but only insofar as it 
complements the Qur'an. The sunna, in 
his view, merely brings out and articulates 
the intention of the Qur'an. If a jurist 
establishes the exact meaning of a verse, 
we cannot say, al-Shatibl analogically 
argues, that the ruling based on that verse 
stems from the authority of the jurist him- 
self. He, like the sunna, functions only as 
an interpreter of what is ultimately the 
very word of God. 

Al-Shatibl on competing evidence in 

legal cases 
When the jurist is presented with two dif- 
ferent or contradictory pieces of evidence, 
both of which enjoy the same degree of 
certainty — thus precluding the possibility 
of one superseding the other — the com- 
mon practice was to choose the evidence 

that was more suitable to the particular 
case at hand, even though it might not be 
qur'anic. Al-Shatibl sees no problem with 
doing so because the evidence in the sunna 
represents, in the final analysis, an expla- 
nation or reformulation of a general 
qur'anic text. Put differently, the evidential 
competition is not between the Qur'an and 
the sunna, but, ultimately, between two dif- 
ferent or seemingly contradictory state- 
ments within the Qur'an. The latter, 
al-Shatibl reaffirms, contains the essence of 
the shari'a, while anything else represents, 
so to speak, footnotes to the self-sufficient 
book. Here al-Shatibl's hypothetical inter- 
locutor replies by citing a number of 
qur'anic verses (such as Q_ 4:59, 5:92, 59:7) 
to the effect that the Prophet must be 
obeyed and that his sunna constitutes a 
source of authority equal to that of the 
Qur'an. The specific directive to bow to 
the Prophet's authority clearly indicates 
that he did introduce injunctions unspeci- 
fied in the Qur'an. Several prophetic 
reports to the same effect are then cited, 
condemning those who make the Qur'an 
their sole reference. 

But al-Shatibl does not see how this evi- 
dence refutes his position. When the sunna 
clarifies a verse pertaining to a particular 
legal ruling, the same ruling ultimately 
remains grounded in the Qur'an, not the 
sunna. Both God and the Prophet presum- 
ably bestow on it a certain authority. Dis- 
tinguishing between the two sanctioning 
authorities does not entail differentiating 
between two different rulings. In other 
words, when the Qur'an calls, as it does, 
upon believers to obey God and the 
Prophet, it is understood that the Prophet's 
authority derives, in the final analysis, from 
that of God. And since no distinction is 
being made between two different rulings 
belonging to a single case, then there is no 
proof that the sunna contains material that 
falls outside the compass of the Qur'an. 



A major role which the surma plays vis-a- 
vis the Qur'an is to privilege one verse over 
another in deciding a particular case of 
law. For instance, the Qur'an generally per- 
mitted the consumption of good food and 
forbade that of putrid victuals without, 
however, defining the status of many spe- 
cific types. The sunna then intervened to 
decide each kind in accordance with the 
principles regulated in the Qur'an, by sub- 
suming certain foods under one legal norm 
or the other. In this way, the meat of don- 
keys and certain predatory animals came 
to be prohibited. Similarly, God forbade 
the ingestion of inebriants but permitted 
non-alcoholic beverages. The rationale 
behind this prohibition was the effect of 
alcohol on the mind in distracting the 
Muslim from worshipping his lord, let 
alone its negative social effects. The sunna 
interfered here by determining to which 
of the two categories date-wine and semi- 
intoxicating beverages belong. On the basis 
of qur'anic data, the sunna furthermore 
articulated the classic dictum that any bev- 
erage which inebriates when consumed in 
large quantities is prohibited even in small 

Al-Shatibl on the subsidiarity of the sunna 
But all this does not change the fact that 
the roots of the sunna ultimately lay in the 
book. Indeed, the sunna may contain some 
legal subject matter which is found neither 
in a terse statement of the Qur'an nor even 
in its more ambiguous or indirect passages 
(see difficult passages). Yet, its subject 
matter still has its origins in the Qur'an. It 
is al-Shatibi's fundamental assumption that 
each qur'anic verse or statement possesses 
multifaceted meanings, some direct and 
others oblique. While a verse may exist in 
its own particular context and may appear 
to have an immediate, obvious meaning, 
this very verse may, at the same time, man- 
ifest another meaning that is identical to 

those found in other verses. Put differently, 
a group of verses may have one theme in 
common which happens to be subsidiary 
to the main meaning in each verse. The 
inductive corroboration of one verse by 
the others lends the common theme a 
certain authority that would reach the 
degree of certitude. But whereas this 
theme remains hidden in the linguistic ter- 
rains of the Qur'an, the sunna reveals it in 
the form of a prophetic report. The result 
of one such case of corroboration is the 
well-known and all-important prophetic 
report "No injury and counter injury in 

The Qur'an, however, does provide what 
al-Shatibl characterizes as the most im- 
portant foundation of the law, namely, the 
principles that aim to serve the interests of 
people, be they those of the individual or 
the community. For, after all, the entire 
enterprise of the shana was instituted in 
the interests of Muslims whether these per- 
tain to life in this world or in the hereafter. 
In order to safeguard these interests, the 
shana seeks to implement the principles of 
public welfare. The sunna, in the detail it 
lends to particular cases, is none other than 
an extension and detailed elaboration of 
the all-embracing qur'anic principles. 

By relegating the sunna to a status subsid- 
iary to the Qur'an and by hierarchically 
and chronologically structuring qur'anic 
material, al-Shatibl was aiming at achiev- 
ing a particular result. He was of the opin- 
ion that Meccan revelation, with all its 
characteristic universality, is general and 
simple in nature, intended for an unlet- 
tered audience (see illiteracy). It is 
addressed to the community at large, to 
the legal expert and layman alike. Every 
Muslim, hailing from any walk of life, can 
comprehend it and can thus heed its in- 
junctions without any intermediary. The 
Medinan revelation, on the other hand, 
came down to explicate, in some technical 


detail, the universal principles laid down 
earlier. Hence, only the legal experts are 
equipped to deal with and understand the 
Medinan text. The complexity of its sub- 
ject matter simply precludes the layman 
from confronting it directly. 

The universality and generality of the 
Meccan revelation in effect means that it is 
devoid of mitigation and juridical license. 
The Medinan texts were thus revealed in 
order to modify and qualify the rigor that 
was communicated at an earlier point in 
time. Al-Shatibi reminds us at this stage 
that the Sufis set aside the Medinan li- 
censes and adhered solely to the stringent 
demands of the Meccan suras (see sOfism 
and THE qjjr'an). He strongly insinuates 
that the Sufis attempted to impose their 
view of the law upon the general public of 
laymen. By insisting on the intellectual 
simplicity of the Meccan revelation, al- 
Shatibi was in effect arguing that laymen 
should be left alone to understand and 
comply with this revelation. He seems to 
say that if the Sufis choose to subject them- 
selves to rigorous piety (q.v), so be it. But 
it is not within their legitimate right to 
impose their will and perception of the law 
on the community of laymen. In these 
terms, he addresses himself equally to the 
jurisconsults who, he advises, must not 
make evident to the public any of their 
practices that are unusually strict. It is, 
therefore, for the purpose of achieving this 
end that al-Shatibi recast the traditional, 
mainstream qur'anic methodology in a 
new form. 

The Quran in modern legal reform 
It is to be stressed that of all traditional 
sources and legal elements, the Quran 
alone survives largely intact in modern 
thinking with respect to the sources of law. 
The prophetic hadith is being largely and 
progressively marginalized; consensus is 
being radically reformulated and recast to 

fit western principles of parliamentary 
democracy; qiyas has been largely aban- 
doned; public interest (maslaha, istislah) and 
juristic preference (istihsan) are still being 
invoked, but they too are being laden with 
modern notions which would render them 
unrecognizable to a traditional jurist. 

While it is true, however, that the Qur'an 
survives intact in the sense that no change 
has been effected in the perception of its 
contents and authority (see contempo- 
rary critical practices and the 
q_ur'an; exegesis of the qjjr'an: early 


have all the other sources, been stripped of 
the traditional interpretive tools that were 
employed in exploiting its positive legal 
repertoire. Thus, such notions as the 
ambiguous, univocal and metaphorical are 
no longer deemed pertinent for the mod- 
ern legal interpretation of the text. 

Much of the law of personal status in the 
Muslim world today still derives from the 
shana, although certain changes and modi- 
fications in this law have taken place. The 
Qiir'an afforded a good deal of subject 
matter in the construction of family law, a 
fact which explains why the reformers have 
been reluctant to affect fundamental re- 
form in a legal sphere that has been for 
centuries so close to the heart of Muslims. 

But the fact remains that the modern law 
of Muslim states has no theoretical, reli- 
gious or intellectual backing. Realizing the 
total collapse of traditional legal theory, 
usul al-fiqh, a number of twentieth-century 
Muslim intellectuals have attempted to for- 
mulate a theoretical substitute for the tra- 
ditional methodology of the law. The great 
majority of reformers have been unsuc- 
cessful in their quest to construct a new 
theoretical function for the Qiir'an. To 
varying degrees, they have intentionally or 
otherwise abandoned the traditional theo- 
retical apparatus and yet at the same time 
have failed to locate a theoretical substitute 



that is direly needed. Many have reduced 
the law to a fairly narrow utilitarian con- 
cept, thereby relegating revelation to a 
position subservient to utilitarian impera- 
tives. One of the most notable reformers, 
and one in whose theory the Qur'an plays 
a major role, is the Pakistani scholar and 
intellectual Fazlur Rahman (d. ic 

Rahman's method 
Rahman takes strong exception to the tra- 
ditional theory and its authors, blaming 
them for a fragmented view of the revealed 
sources, especially the Qur'an. In his opin- 
ion, both the traditional legal theorists and 
the exegetes treated the Qur'an verse by 
verse, and the sunna, report by report. The 
lack of cross-reference to the textual 
sources was thus responsible for the ab- 
sence of an effective Weltanschauung that is 
cohesive and meaningful for life as a 
whole. A central ingredient in the task of 
understanding the qur'anic message as a 
unity is to analyze it against a background, 
and that background is the Arabian society 
in which Islam first arose. Thus a thorough 
understanding of the Meccan social, eco- 
nomic and tribal institutions becomes nec- 
essary in order to understand the import 
of revelation for the purpose of universal- 
izing it beyond the context of the Prophet's 

In an attempt to explain the significance 
of understanding the Qur'an as a whole 
and within a situational context, Rahman 
takes the case of alcoholic beverages, de- 
clared prohibited by the traditional jurists. 
As we have already seen, the Qur'an ini- 
tially considered alcohol among the bless- 
ings of God, along with milk (q.v.) and 
honey (q.v.; q 16:66-9). Later, when Mus- 
lims moved to Medina, some Companions 
urged the Prophet to ban alcohol. Conse- 
quently, q 2:219 was revealed, stipulating a 
qualified prohibition of wine. Thereafter, 
on two successive occasions (q 4:43, 5:90-1), 

wine was finally banned categorically. 

From this gradual prohibition of alcohol, 
the jurists concluded that the last verse, 
q 5:90-1, abrogated those which preceded 
it, and in an attempt to rationalize this 
abrogation they resorted to what Rahman 
terms the "law of gradation," according to 
which the Qur'an sought to wean Muslims 
from certain ingrained habits in a piece- 
meal fashion, instead of commanding a 
sudden prohibition. Hence, it was neces- 
sary to support this law of gradation by 
other considerations in order to make the 
contradiction between the various verses 
intelligible. In the Meccan period, the 
Muslims were a small minority, constitut- 
ing an informal community, not a society. 
It appears, Rahman says, that alcohol con- 
sumption in the midst of this community 
was in no way a common practice. But 
when the more prominent Meccans con- 
verted to Islam at a later stage, there were 
many who were in the habit of drinking 
alcohol. The evolution of this minority 
into a community and then into an infor- 
mal state coincided with the growing prob- 
lem of alcohol consumption; hence the 
final qur'anic prohibition imposed on all 
inebriating substances. 

It is thus necessary to draw from the iso- 
lated verses, which are particular and frag- 
mented in nature, a general principle that 
embodies the rationale behind a certain 
ruling. The failure of the traditionaljurists 
to elicit such principles, Rahman argues, 
has led to chaos. A telling example of this 
failure may be found in the case of poly- 
gamous marriage. In o_ 4:2, the Qur'an 
alludes to, and forbids, the guardians' 
abuse and unlawful seizure of the property 
of orphaned children with whom they 
were entrusted. In q 4:127, the Qur'an 
says that these guardians should marry the 
orphaned girls when they come of age 
rather than return their property to them. 
Accordingly, in q 4:3 the Qur'an says that 



if the guardians cannot do justice to the 
orphan's property and if they insist on 
marrying them, then they may marry up 
to four, provided that they treat them justly. 
If they cannot afford them such a treat- 
ment, then they must marry only one. On 
the other hand, o_ 4:129 stipulates that it is 
impossible to do justice among a plurality 
of wives. Like the case of alcohol, the 
Qur'an is seemingly contradictory here: 
while it permits marriage to four wives if 
they can be treated with justice, it declares 
that justice can never be done in a poly- 
gamous marriage. But it must not be for- 
gotten, Rahman asserts, that the whole 
qur'anic discussion occurred within the 
limited context of orphaned women, not 
unconditionally. The traditional jurists 
deemed the permission to marry up to four 
wives as carrying a legal force, whereas the 
demand to do justice to them was consid- 
ered to be a mere recommendation, devoid 
of any binding effect. With this interpreta- 
tion, the traditional jurists turned the issue 
of polygamy right on its head, taking a 
specific verse to be binding and the general 
principle to be a recommendation. In 
"eliciting general principles of different 
order from the Qur'an... the most general 
becomes the most basic and the most de- 
serving of implementation, while the spe- 
cific rulings will be subsumed under them" 
(Rahman, Interpreting the Qur'an, 49). In 
accordance with this principle, Rahman 
argues, the justice verse in polygamous 
marriages should have been accorded a 
status superior to that of the specific verse 
giving permission to marry up to four 
wives. The priority given to the justice 
verse in this case is further supported by 
the recurrent and persistent qur'anic 
theme of the need to do justice. 

Rahman's "double movement theory" 
The task of eliciting general principles 
from specific rulings in the Qur'an and the 

sunna must be undertaken, then, with full 
consideration of the sociological forces 
that produced these rulings. Inasmuch as 
the Qur'an gives, be it directly or obliquely, 
the reasons for certain ethical and legal 
rulings, an understanding of these reasons 
becomes essential for drawing general 
principles. The multifaceted ingredients 
making up the revealed texts, along with 
those ingredients making up the back- 
ground of revelation, must therefore "be 
brought together to yield a unified and 
comprehensive socio-moral theory 
squarely based upon the Qur'an and its 
sunna counterparts" (Rahman, Towards 
reformulating, 221). But it may be objected 
that the process of eliciting general prin- 
ciples in this manner is excessively sub- 
jective. In refuting this claim, Rahman 
invokes the fact that the Qur'an speaks of 
its own purposes and objectives, a fact that 
should contribute to minimizing subjectiv- 
ity. Furthermore, whatever difference of 
opinion results from the existing subjec- 
tivity should be of great value, provided 
that each opinion is seriously and carefully 

This process of eliciting general princi- 
ples represents the first step towards imple- 
menting a new methodology of the law. 
This methodology consists of two move- 
ments of juristic thought, one proceeding 
from the particular to the general (i.e. eli- 
citing general principles from specific 
cases), the other from the general to the 
particular. Hence the designation of Rah- 
man's methodology as "the double move- 
ment theory." In the second movement, 
the general principles elicited from the 
revealed sources are brought to bear upon 
the present conditions of Muslim society. 
This presupposes a thorough understand- 
ing of these conditions, equal in magnitude 
to that required to understand the revealed 
texts against their background. But since 
the present situation can never be iden- 



tical to the prophetic past, and since it 
could differ from it "in certain important 
respects," it is required that "we apply 
those general principles of the Qur'an (as 
well as those of the sunna) to the current 
situation espousing that which is worthy 
of espousing and rejecting that which must 
be rejected" (Rahman, Interpreting the 
Qur'an, 49). Just what the criteria are for 
rejecting certain "important respects" 
and not others is a crucial question that 
Rahman does not seem to answer deci- 
sively. For if these respects are important 
and yet are capable of being neutralized, 
then there is no guarantee that essential 
qur'anic and sunnaic elements or even 
principles will not be set aside. 

The weakness of Rahman's methodology 
also lies in the not altogether clear mech- 
anics of the second movement, that is, the 
application of the systematic principles 
derived from the revealed texts and their 
contexts to present-day situations. Fur- 
thermore, the relatively few cases which he 
repeatedly cites in his writings on the sub- 
ject do not represent the full spectrum of 
cases in the law, with the result that his 
methodology may be considered incapable 
of providing a scope comprehensive 
enough to afford modern Muslims the 
methodological means of solving problems 
different in nature than those he so fre- 
quently cites. What of those cases for 
which a textual statement is available but 
no information as to the context of its rev- 
elation? Or, still, how do modern Muslims 
address fundamental problems facing their 
societies when no applicable qur'anic or 
sunnaic text can be located? That Rahman 
does not seem to provide answers for such 
questions may be a function of his interest 
in elaborating a methodology confined in 
outlook to the revealed texts rather than a 
methodology of law proper. 

Wael Hallaq 

Primary: al-'Abbadl, Ahmad b. Qasim, Shark 'aid 
Shark al-AIahallT 'aid l-waraqdt, printed on the 
margins of al-Shawkanl's Irshdd alfuhul, Sura- 
baya n.d.; Abu c Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallam, Kitdb 
al-Ndsikh wa-l-mansukh, ed.J. Burton, Suffolk 
1987; al-Amidl, Abu 1-Hasan c Ah~ Sayf al-Dln, 
al-Ihkdmfi usul al-ahkdm, 3 vols., Cairo 1968; al- 
BajT, Abu 1-Wahd b. Khalaf, Ihkdm al-fusulfi 
ahkdm al-usul, Beirut 1986; BaydawT, Minhdj al- 
wusul ild 'Urn al-usul, printed with Jamal al-Dln al- 
Asnawl, JSihdyat al-sulji shark minhdj al-wusul ild 
( ilm al-usul lil-Bayddwi, 3 vols., Cairo 1317/1899; 
al-Bayhaql, Abu Bakr Ahmad b. al-Husayn, 
Ahkdm al-Qur'dn, 2 vols., Beirut 1975; al-BukharT, 
( Ala' al-Dln, Kashf al-asrdr, 4 vols., Istanbul 1890, 
repr. Beirut 1974; lb 11 al-Farra', Abu Ya'la 
1-Baghdadl, al-'Uddafi usul al-fiqh, ed. A. Muba- 
rak!, 3 vols., Beirut 1980; Muhammad Ibn 
Hazm, Mujam al-fiqh, 2 vols., Damascus 1966; 
Mulla Khusraw, Muhammad b. 'All, Mirqat al- 
wusul ild 'Urn al-usul, Cairo 1902; Muqatil, Khams 
ml'a; al-Shatibl, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim, al- 
Muwdfaqdtfi usul al-ahkdm, ed. M. MuhyT 1-Dln 
( Abd al-Hamld, 4 vols., Cairo 1970; Simla, 
Muhammad b. Ahmad (Abu Abdallah Shu'la 
1-Musill Ibn al-Muwaqqi'), Safwat al-rdsikhfi 'Urn 
al-mansukh wa-l-ndsikh, ed. R. ( Abd al-Tawwab, 
Cairo 1995; al-Tufl, Najm al-Dln Sulayman, 
Shark mukhtasar al-rawda, ed. 'A. al-Turkl, 3 vols., 
Beirut 1987. 

Secondary: M.M. Bravmann, The spiritual 
background of early Islam, Leiden 1972; S.P. Brock, 
Syriac views of emergent Islam, in G.H.A. 
Juynboll (ed.), Studies on the first century of Islamic 
society, Carbondale, IL 1982, 9-2i;J. Burton, The 
sources of Islamic law. Islamic theories of abrogation, 
Edinburgh 1990; P. Crone and M. Hinds, God's 
caliph. Religious authority in the first centuries of Islam, 
Cambridge 1986; S.D. Goitein, The birth-hour 
of Muslim law, in mw 50 (i960), 23-9; Y. Gold- 
feld, The development of theory on qur'anic 
exegesis in Islamic scholarship, in si 67 (1988), 
6-27; W.B. Hallaq, A history of Islamic legal theories, 
Cambridge 1997; id., The primacy of the Qur'an 
in Shatibi's legal theory, in id. and D. Little 
(eds.), Islamic studies presented to Charles J. Adams, 
Leiden 1991 , 69-90 (repr. in id., Law and legal 
theory in classical and medieval Islam, Aldershot 
1995, XI); F. Rahman, Divine revelation and 
holy Prophet, in Pakistan times, 25 August 1968, 
2-5; id., Interpreting the Qur'an, in Inquiry 3 
(May 1986), 45-9; id., Major themes of the Qur'an, 
Minneapolis 1980; id., Some key ethical concepts 
of the Qur'an, in Journal of religious ethics 11 
(1983), 170-85; id., Towards reformulating the 
methodology of Islamic law, in New York University 
journal of international law and politics 12 (1979), 



210-2; A. Rippin, Al-Zuhri, naskh al-Qiu'dn and 
the problem of early tafsTr texts, in bsoas 47 
(1984), 22-43; R- Roberts, The social laws of the 
Qprdn, London 1925, repr. London 1990 (Eng. 
trans, of Familienrecht im Qprdn)] M. Sharur, al- 
Kitab wa-l-Qur'an. Qira'a mu'asira, Cairo 1992; 
B. Weiss, The search for God's law. Islamic juris- 
prudence in the writings of Sayj al-Dln al-Amidi, 
Salt Lake City 1992. 

Lawful and Unlawful 

That which is legally authorized, and that 
which is not. Among its various legislative 
pronouncements, the Quran declares cer- 
tain objects and actions lawful or unlawful. 
The words halal, "lawful, allowed, per- 
mitted," and haram, "unlawful, forbidden, 
prohibited," and cognate terms from the 
triliteral roots h-l-l and h-r-m, respectively, 
most often designate these two categories 
and are of relatively frequent occurrence. 
Qur'anic declarations of lawfulness or 
unlawfulness are limited to a relatively few 
areas of the law as later elaborated by 
Muslim jurists: for the most part, ritual, 
family law and dietary matters (see ritual 

divorce; food and drink). On the other 
hand, the lawful/unlawful rubric also has 
non-legislative functions in the Qur'an. 
Although the seemingly primary categories 
of halal and haram were largely eclipsed by 
jurisprudential rubrics that were developed 
subsequently, the terms retained signifi- 
cance in ascetic thought (see asceticism) 
and have recently become prominent in 
popular handbooks of religious law. 

Apart from denoting lawfulness, the root 
h-l-l indicates an exit from the ritual state 
connected with the pilgrimage (q.v.) and 
re-entry into the profane state [idha halal- 
tum, Q_ 5:2; see ritual purity). In this 
sense, too, it is the antonym of h-r-m (see 

below). Concretely, it refers to dissolution 
(e.g. Q_ 66:2, metaphorically, of an oath; see 
and also alighting (e.g. Q_ 20:86, again met- 
aphorically, of God's wrath; see anger). 
The most common means for indicating 
lawfulness in the Qur'an is to use the caus- 
ative verb ahalla, "to make lawful," usually 
with God as the subject (e.g. Q_ 7:157, "He 
makes the good things lawful for them") 
but it is sometimes passive (e.g. Q_ 5:1, con- 
cerning certain livestock; see animal life; 
bounty). In one instance it occurs in the 
first person plural, in an address to 
Muhammad (o_ 33:50; see form and 
structure of the q_ur'an; language 
and STYLE OF THE qur'an). Very occasion- 
ally, people are made the subject of this 
verb, to suggest that they wrongly deem 
something lawful (e.g. Q_ 9:37, though words 
derived from h-r-m are more common in 
such accusations; see below). Finally, it 
should be noted that the intransitive verb 
halla, "to be lawful," occasionally appears 
in the negative, to indicate that something 
is not lawful (e.g. Q_ 2:230, providing that 
one's wife ceases to be lawful, i.e. available 
for sexual intercourse, after divorce). The 
Qttr'an also employs the adjectives hill and 
halal to indicate lawfulness (e.g. in Q_ 5:5 
and o_ 8:69, respectively, concerning cer- 
tain foods). 

Words derived from the root h-r-m not 
only connote God's making something un- 
lawful but also frequently express the idea 
of sacredness (see sanctity and the 
sacred), e.g. al-shahr al-haram, "the sacred 
month" (p_ 2:194; see months); al-haram, 
"the sacred precinct," where the Ka'ba 
(q.v.) is located (o_ 28:57); hurum, persons in 
the ritual state associated with pilgrimage 
(e.g. Q. 5 :i ); an( i hurumat, certain sacred or- 
dinances or institutions (o_ 2:194; 22:30). 
The Arm-derived counterpart to ahalla is 
the causative verb harrama, "to make 1111- 



lawful," and, as in the case of the former, 
God is frequently its subject (e.g. Q 2:173, 
concerning foods). The Qur'an does not 
employ an intransitive verb derived from 
h-r-m, making do instead with the passive 
of harrama (e.g. Q_ 5:3, also concerning 
foods) and the related passive participle 
(e.g. p_ 6:145, again concerning foods; the 
corresponding participial form from ahalla 
is not found in the Qur'an). A number of 
passages use harrama in the first person plu- 
ral and in most of these God recounts how 
he had previously made certain things, 
especially foods, unlawful for the Jews 
(p_ 4:160; 6:146; 16:118; 28:12; see JEWS AND 
Judaism). The counterpart of the adjective 
halal is haram, though they only appear to- 
gether twice (q_ 10:59; 16:116). There is no 
A-r-m-derived equivalent to the form hill 
but in o_ 21:95 the Kufan tradition of 
variant readings (see readings of the 
qur'an) substitutes the word hirm for haram 
(see Jeffery, Materials, e.g. 62, codex of Ibn 
Mas'ud). Later legal theorists paired hill 
with the non-qur'anic term hurma (e.g. 
Fakhr al-Dln al-RazI [d. 606/1210], 
Mahsul, i, 15). 

Especially in regard to dietary rules, halal 
and haram parallel to a degree the Levitical 
categories of clean and unclean, respec- 
tively. As noted, though, halal and haram 
also connote profaneness and sacredness, 
respectively, suggesting a potentially puz- 
zling link between what is sacred and what 
is unclean. Possibly, a pre-qur'anic connec- 
tion existed between sacredness and ritual- 
related restrictions (haram) on the one hand 
and the profane state and a general lack of 
restrictions (halal) on the other. Thus, the 
objects of qur'anic prohibitions would 
have been assimilated to a category of ritu- 
ally mandated restrictions rather than rit- 
ual impurity (see Heninger, Purete). How- 
ever that may be, the qur'anic terms are 
paralleled to some extent by the Hebrew 

pair mutar and asm; meaning permitted 
("loosened," semantically equivalent to 
h-l-l) and forbidden (q.v; Wansbrough, 
QS, 174). 

Certain other terms in the Qur'an also 
connote lawfulness and unlawfulness. A 
number of passages use the wordjunah, 
"sin," in variants of the phrase "It is not a 
sin for you to..." as an indirect means of 
describing lawful activities (e.g. o_ 2:198, 
permitting commercial activity while in 
the ritual state required of pilgrims; see 
markets; selling and buying; sin, 
major and minor). Rhetorically, passages 
employingjana/z often imply that the activ- 
ity in question might have been thought 
unlawful and hence required clarification. 
Commentators (see exegesis of the 
qur'an: classical and medieval) gloss 
the word hijr as meaning haram in two pas- 
sages. In Q_ 6:138, unnamed persons de- 
clare certain produce and livestock hijr, 
which means, according to the commenta- 
tors, that it was declared haram, "off-limits, 
or sacrosanct," in connection with a pagan 
rite (e.g. T aDa rf) Tafsir, xii, 139-40). In 
25:22, the phrase hijr mahjur appears in 
the following sentence: "On the day they 
see the angels (see angel), there will be no 
glad tidings then for the wrongdoers, and 
they will say hijran mahjuran." Some com- 
mentators attribute the phrase in question 
to the angels and gloss it as meaning haram 
muharram, that is, either paradise (q.v.) or 
the glad tidings (see good news) will be 
"strictly forbidden" to the wrongdoers (e.g. 
Baydawi, Anwar, ii, 37). The phrase hijr 
mahjur also appears in Q_ 25:53, where it 
seems to refer concretely to physical sepa- 
ration (e.g. Baydawi, Anwar, ii, 43), and the 
word hijr appears alone in o_ 89:5, where it 
is traditionally understood to mean "intelli- 
gence" (e.g. Baydawi, Anwar, ii, 401; see 
intellect; knowledge and learning). 
The word suht appears at Q_ 5:42 and twice 



at q 5:62-3, always in the phrase "eaters/ 
eating of suht" (akkaluna lil-suhti, aklihimu 
l-suhta), an apparently derogatory reference 
to the Jews. The commentators took suht to 
refer either generally to unlawful gain or 
specifically to bribes accepted by Jewish 
judges (e.g. Tabarl, TafsTr, x, 318-24, 447-8), 
thus connecting it with the remainder of 
5:42, in which the Prophet is given per- 
mission to adjudicate Jewish legal matters. 
In Leviticus 22:25, a Hebrew cognate, 
mashhat, refers to inherent "corruption" or 
"mutilation" which renders certain ritual 
offerings unfit (see consecration of 
animals; corruption) but the more usual 
sense of the biblical Hebrew cognate is 
"destruction," which is how a related Ara- 
bic word is used at q 20:61. According to 
Jeffery (For. vocab, 165-6), suht means "un- 
lawful" in a technical sense. He notes 
an interesting parallel with the Talmud 
(Shabb. 140b, discussing the principle of 
bal tashhit derived from Deut 20:19) but opts 
for a Syriac origin of the word (suhtd, "de- 
pravity, corruption"). The remainder of 
this discussion deals only with words de- 
rived from the roots h-l-l and h-r-m. 

What is lawful and unlawful? 
As noted above, qur'anic declarations of 
lawfulness and unlawfulness pertain mostly 
to ritual, dietary law and family law. For 
example, q 5:96 declares the hunting of 
land animals while in the ritual state for 
the pilgrimage to have been outlawed (hur- 
rima) but fishing and eating the catch lawful 
(uhilla, see hunting and fishing). In re- 
gard to dietary matters, the most promi- 
nent and oft-repeated rule provides that 
God has made unlawful (harrama) carrion 
(q.v.), blood, swine flesh and what is conse- 
crated to other than God (q 2:173; 16:115; 
and with slight variations at q 5:3 and 
6:145). The largest number of rules that 
use this rubric concern family law. 
q 4:22-4, for example, details which 

women have been made unlawful (hurrimat) 
to marry and which lawful (uhilla). A note- 
worthy principle of Islamic commercial 
law at q 2:275 provides that God made 
lawful (ahalla) sales transactions and for- 
bade (harrama) usury (q.v.). 

In contrast to the many overtly legislative 
passages which pronounce on lawfulness 
and unlawfulness, other passages employ 
the lawful/unlawful rubric to suggest that 
the Muslims are, perhaps, subject to fewer 
legal restrictions than previous communi- 
ties. Several such passages use words de- 
rived from the roots h-l-l and t-y-b to sug- 
gest that God has begun to expand the 
category of the lawful, as in q 5:5: "Today 
the good things (al-tayyibat) have been 
made lawful for you (uhilla lakum)" (see 
also q 2:172-3 [with h-r-m]; 5:4, 88; 7:157; 
16:114). Other passages contain an implicit 
or explicit charge that certain human be- 
ings have mistakenly declared things lawful 
or unlawful (mostly the latter). These fall 
into three main groups: those in which 
people are enjoined not to outlaw what 
God has provided (q 5:87; 6:140; 7:32; 
10:59); those which generally complain that 
people have wrongly forbidden or made 
lawful unspecified things (q 6:148; 9:29; 
16:35, 116; 66:1); and those in which people 
are accused of wrongly outlawing (or per- 
mitting) certain specified things, mostly in 
connection with pagan practices (see gen- 
erally q 6:138-50; 9:37; see idolatry and 

Finally, several passages use the lawful/ 
unlawful rubric to suggest that the Jews 
labored under a more burdensome law 
than the Muslims, either because the for- 
mer created unnecessary rules (q 3:93) or 
because God wished to punish them 
(q 4:160; 6:146; 16:118). The process of re- 
pealing this more onerous law imposed on 
the Jews apparently begins with Jesus (q.v.), 
who says in q 3:50 that he has come as a 
confirmation of the Torah (q.v.), to make 



lawful (li-uhilla) some of the things which 
had previously been forbidden (hurrima, 
compare Matt 5:17-9, in which Jesus denies 
that he has come to relax the Law). 

Post-qur'anic developments 
Early commentators, such as Ibn 'Abbas 
(d. 68/687) and Muhammad al-Kalbl 
(d. 146/763) are said to have recognized 
declarations of lawfulness and unlawful- 
ness (halal wa-hardm) as one among several 
fundamental modes of qur'anic discourse 
(Versteegh, Arabic grammar, 64, 106; see also 
Wansbrough, qs, 149, 173-4; see literary 
structures of THE q_ur'an). Exegetes and 
legal theorists, however, soon moved be- 
yond this basic qur'anic distinction. The 
commentator and grammarian al-Farra' 
(d. 207/822), for example, differentiates 
between qur'anic prohibitions (sing, nahy) 
which aim merely to inculcate proper eti- 
quette (adab) and those which function to 
outlaw something (nahy muharrim; Kinberg, 
Lexicon, 863). This move marks the extrac- 
tion of an abstracted and generalized con- 
cept of unlawfulness (and implicitly lawful- 
ness), inferable from a text's language and 
capable of being applied and elaborated 
outside the confines of those qur'anic pas- 
sages that used the root h-r-m (or h-l-l). Al- 
Shafi'i (d. 204/820), for example, applied 
this same adab/tahrim distinction to pro- 
phetic hadlth (Shafi'l, Risdla, par. 926-60; 
see HADITH AND THE Q_Ur'an). 

Scrutiny of the variously formulated leg- 
islative provisions in revealed texts, and 
speculation on their potentially disparate 
legal consequences, led jurists to a theory 
of gradations of legal obligation. More 
precisely, legal theorists developed a classi- 
ficatory scheme of moral evaluations 
(ahkam, sing, hukm) to which all human acts 
could be assigned: mandatory (wajib), rec- 
ommended (mandub), merely permitted 
(miibdh), disapproved (makruh), and forbid- 
den (haram or mahgur). In a sense, the first 

four categories could be considered refine- 
ments of what is halal (Jackson, Islamic law, 
118) but it is really only the outer categories 
of mandatory and forbidden that have the 
force of rules (Weiss, The spirit, 18-g), and 
they do not parallel the categories of halal 
and haram (/za/d//lawful being a broader 
and different sort of category than wajib/ 
mandatory). This graded scale eclipsed the 
fundamental qur'anic binary of halal/ 
haram, which came to be applied only in 
much more limited fashion to certain 
things (e.g. wine [q.v; see also intoxi- 
cants]) and persons (e.g. potential spouses; 
Schacht, Introduction, 121 n. 2; see pro- 
hibited degrees). Contrasting with these 
developments in speculative legal herme- 
neutics, there emerged a pietistic tendency 
to view the world as fundamentally divisi- 
ble into realms of lawfulness and unlaw- 
fulness. This "scrupulosity" (for a good 
example of which, see Cooperson's de- 
scription of Ahmad b. Hanbal [d. 241/ 
845], Arabic biography, 112-8) may, perhaps, 
be considered a concern with ritual purity 
in the widest possible sense, but is in any 
event connected with the rise to promi- 
nence of the traditionists, part of whose 
"programme" was "to identify the catego- 
ries 'forbidden' and 'invalid' " (Schacht, 
Introduction, 46). The great theologian 
al-Ghaza.ll (d. 505/11 11) may be said to 
have reconciled to some extent the legal- 
hermeneutical and ethical-ascetic uses of 
the lawful/unlawful rubric in Book xiv of 
his Ihyd' 'ulum al-din (Revivification of the 
religious sciences), the Kitab al-haldl wa-l- 
hardm ("Book of the lawful and the unlaw- 
ful," Fr. trans. R. Morelon, Le livre du licite et 
de I'illicite). Al-Ghazali criticizes the view 
that the world has become so corrupted 
that one is no longer in a position to ob- 
serve the distinction between halal and 
haram. He insists, rather, that scrupulosity 
(warn'), an even stricter standard than 
haram, is still possible. Practicing warn ' 



requires that one avoid not only what is 
haram but also many things (and actions) 
which, though technically halal, possess the 
quality of shubha, "dubiousness" (for the 
more usual technical legal meaning of 
which, see Rowson, Shubha). Al-Ghazall's 
technically accomplished analysis repre- 
sents an interesting application of specula- 
tive modes of juridical thinking to an anti- 
theoretical, pietistic concern (see 

In recent times, a number of popular 
books giving practical guidance on the ap- 
plication of Islamic law in everyday life 
take the categories of lawful and unlawful 
as their organizing principle. A prominent 
such work is al-Halal wa-l-hardmfi l-hlam 
(Eng. trans. The lawful and the prohibited in 
Islam) by Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1926). In 
the introduction, al-Qaradawi says that he 
is the first to author a work devoted en- 
tirely to the topic of halal and haram. What- 
ever al-Ghazall might have thought of that 
claim, al-Qaradawl's work unleashed a vir- 
tual flood of books (some critical of al- 
Qaradawi for his liberal views) devoted to 
distinguishing the halal from the haram in 
daily life. Such works, including that of al- 
Qaradawl, are now widely available in lan- 
guages other than Arabic. Their contents 
derive, however, from the subsequently de- 
veloped categories of classical Islamic law 
and, as such, they extend well beyond 
qur'anic declarations of lawfulness and 
unlawfulness, to cover the full range of 
activities possible in contemporary life. 
See also law and the q_ur'an; ethics 


R. Morelon, Le livre du licite et de Villicite, Paris 
1981, 1991* [rev. ed.]); Y. al-QjiradawI, al-Halal 
wa-l-haram f l-hlam, Cairo i960 (Eng. trans. 
K. El-Helbawy et al., The lawful and the prohibited 
in Islam, Indianapolis 1 98-); RazI, al-AIahsftl fi 
Usui al-jiqh, 2 vols., Beirut 1988; al-Shafi'l, 
Muhammad b. Idrls, al-Risala, ed. A. Shakir, 
Cairo 1940; Tabari, Tafsir, ed. Shakir. 
Secondary: M. Cooperson, Classical Arabic 
biography, Cambridge 2000; J. Henninger, Purete 
et impurete, in H. Cazelles and A. Feuillet (eds.), 
Supplement au Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris 1973, ix, 
cols. 460-70 (Arabic); T. Izutsu, Concepts, 237-41; 
S.Jackson, Islamic law and the state, Leiden 1996; 
Jeffery, For vocab; id., Materials; N. Kinberg, 
A lexicon of al-Farrd"s terminology in his Quran 
commentary, Leiden 1996; A. Rippin, Quran 
21:95. A ban is on any town,' in/55 24 (1979), 
43-53, repr. in id., The Qiir'an and its interpretative 
tradition, Aldershot 2001, article VII; E. Rowson, 
Shubha, in El", ix, 492-3; J. Schacht, An intro- 
duction to Islamic law, Oxford 1965 (rev. ed.); 
C. Versteegh, Arabic grammar and qur'anic exegesis 
in early Islam, Leiden 1993; Wansbrough, qs; 
B. Weiss, The spirit oj Islamic law, Athens, GA 

Laziness see virtues and vices, 


Leader see kings and rulers; imam 


instruments; scrolls; trees 
Learning see knowledge and learning 
Leather see hides and fleece; animal 


Left Hand and Rieht Hand 

Joseph E. Lowry 

Primary: Baydawl, Anwar; al-Ghazah, Abu 
Hamid Muhammad, Ihya' 'ulum al-din, 5 vols., 
Cairo 1967, v, 2, 112-99 (Ger. trans. H. Bauer, 
Erlaubtes und verbotenes Gut, in Islamische Etliik, 
4 vols., Halle/Saale 1916-40, iii; Fr. trans. 

The terminal part of each arm, often with 
connotations of evil and good, respectively 
(see good and evil; hands). The left 
hand (shimal, pi. shama'il, mash'ama) and the 
right hand (jamm, pi. aymdn, maymana) ap- 
pear in the Qur'an in two contexts: first, 
the hisdb, a record or statement of personal 



deeds to be given to every person on the 
day of judgment (yawm al-din, see LAST 
second, the placement of the resurrected 
(see resurrection) before they are sent off 
to either paradise (q.v.) or hell (see HELL 
AND hellfire). In this connection, the left 
hand or the left side is attested six times 
and the right hand or the right side four- 
teen times. 

Those who refused to believe in the resur- 
rection or persisted in their terrible sins 
(al-hinth al- 'agim, frequently explained as 
polytheism; see polytheism and atheism; 
sin, major AND minor) will receive their 
record in their left hand (o 56:41; 69:25) 
and will regret having relied on their 
wealth or power (sultan, p_ 69:25-9). They 
are identified as al-ddllun al-mukadhdhibun 
(those who erred and denied Muhammad's 
prophethood, Q_ 56:51; see astray; error; 
opposition to muhammad). They will be 
punished (see reward and punishment) 
with burning winds (see AIR and wind) 
and boiling waters (see water) and will eat 
of a tree called Zaqqum (p_ 56:9, 41-56; see 
be fettered with a chain seventy cubits long 
and will roast in hell (o_ 56:92-4; 69:30-7; 
84:10-25; 90:19-20). In contrast, those who 
followed their imam (q.v.; generally ex- 
plained as prophets or holy books; see 
book; prophets and prophethood) and 
performed good deeds (q.v.) such as freeing 
a slave (see slaves and slavery), feeding 
an orphan (see orphans) in famine (q.v.) or 
exhorting one another to show pity and 
compassion will be given their record 
(kitdb) in their right hand (o_ 17:71; 90:12-8). 
Their reckoning will be easy (q_ 84:7-9) and 
their light (q.v.) will run forward before 
them and by their right hands (o 57:12; 
66:8). Their abode will be paradise, there 
to be served by immortal boys while enjoy- 
ing spreading shade, plentiful waters, 
abundant fruits and perfect virgins (q_ 56:8, 

27-40, 90-1; 69:19-24; see houris). They 
include a group from among the pre- 
Muhammadan believers (al-sdbiqun) and 
Muhammad's followers (al-dkhirun, cf. 
Muqatil, Tafsir, iv, 219). They will ask one 
another about those who entered hell 
(saqar, Q_ 74:39-56; cf. go: 18 f). 

Exegetes (see exegesis of the qur'an: 
classical AND medieval) deal extensively 
with these topics, using traditions attrib- 
uted to the Prophet, to his Companions 
(see companions of the prophet) or even 
to qussds (preachers and tellers of legends; 
see hadith AND THE q_ur'an). They make 
a connection between ashab al-mash 'ama 
(q 56:9) or ashab al-shimdl (q_ 56:41) with 
those who will be given their records (kitdb) 
in their left hand, and ashab al-maymana 
(q 56:8) or ashab al-yamm (q_ 56:38, 90-1) 
with those who will be given their kitdb in 
their right hand. The term al-mutalaqqiydni 
recorded in Q_ 50:17-8 is explained as refer- 
ring to the two "recording angels" sitting 
(qa'id), one on the right of each human be- 
ing, recording his good acts (hasandt) and 
one on the left recording his sins (Ibn al- 
Jawzl, Tabsira, ii, 254). These records form 
the sahd'if al-a'mdl, which will be presented 
during the final reckoning and judgment. 
Exegetes tried to elaborate and complete 
the qur'anic picture of the various ele- 
ments that constitute this special phase of 
the last judgment. Since the qur'anic refer- 
ences to this reckoning are abundant but 
not always sequenced, there were many 
attempts to assign a chronological order to 
the different stages of this critical process. 
The most prevalent accounts assert that 
after the resurrection each person will be 
escorted by his two recording angels 
(QurtubT, Tadhkira, i, 295-6). All will be 
gathered in the courtyards ('arasdt al- 
qiydmaj. Those who receive their kitdb?, in 
their left hands or behind their backs 
(ward'a ^ahrihi, q_ 84:10; the explanation of 
receiving the book behind the back is that 


I 7 8 

the right hands of these people will be fet- 
tered to their necks and their left hands 
will be turned to their backs, Ibn Kathir, 
TafsTr, viii, 378-9 ad q 84:7-10) will regret 
that death was not their final step and that 
now they must be judged (see judgment). 
Their good deeds will be annulled and 
their bad deeds (see EVIL deeds) will be 
doubled in order to double their penalty 
(Qurtubl, Janti', xix, 271-3 ad o_ 84:7-10). 
Their reckoning (hisab) will be discussed, 
that discussion being a sign of their immi- 
nent punishment. Those who receive their 
kitdbs in their right hands will undergo an 
"easy reckoning" (hisab yasir, Q_ 84:7) con- 
sisting merely of a simple 'ard, God's re- 
view or inspection of the resurrected 
(Qurtubl, Tadhkira, i, 382), and will rejoin 
their relatives in paradise. Al-Hasan al- 
Basrl (d. 110/728) speaks about three 'mud, 
the first and the second comprising ele- 
ments of discussion (jidal) and excuse 
(ma ddhir), the third, the scattering of the 
sheets (tatdyur al-suhuf Ibn Kathir, al- 
Mihdya, ii, 41). In some sources, these 
records (kutub) axe. connected with the 
mawdzin, "balances" (recorded in o_ 7:8, 9; 
23:102, 103; 101:6, 8; see instruments; 
weights AND measures). The good deeds 
will tilt the balance and open the way to 
paradise. Those whose balance of good 
deeds is too light will be sent to hell 
(Schimmel, Deciphering the signs, 219-41). 
There were attempts to interpret the 
qur'anic verses dealing with ashdb al-yamTn 
and ashdb al-shimdl as references to specific 
persons or parties (see parties and fac- 
tions). According to al-Zuhri (d. 124/742), 
the first two brothers to receive their re- 
cords will be the Companion Abu Salama 
b. Abd al-Asad who will receive it in his 
right hand and the enemy of the Prophet, 
Sufyan b. 'Abd al-Asad, who will receive it 
in his left hand (al-Nabll, Awd'il, 34, no. 
82). Shl'l sources (see shI'ism and the 
q_ur'an), citing a tradition attributed to 

the sixth imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (d. 148/765), 
report that Q_ 69:19 refers to 'All b. Abi 
Talib (q.v.) as the first to receive his kitdb in 
his right hand and that Q_ 69:25 refers to 
Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan or al-Shdmi 
la'anahu lldh, "the Syrian, may God curse 
him," who will receive his kitdb in his left 
hand (Qumml, Tafslr, ii, 384; MajlisI, Bihar 
al-anwdr, viii, 518, 1. 11-12). A report attrib- 
uted to 'All b. Abi Talib attests that the 
ashdb al-yamin in Q_ 56:27 are atfdl al- 
muslimTn, "children of Muslims" (Abd al- 
Razzaq, TafsTr, ii, 270; T aDarl > TafsTr, xxvii, 
179). Qatada (d. ca. 117/735) reportedly 
interpreted "min ashdbi l-yamin" in the verse 
" 'Peace be with you' from those on the 
right hand" (fa-saldmun laka min ashdbi 
1-yamTn, Q_ 56:91) as meaning "from God" 
(min 'indi Udhi) or "from his angels" (cf. 
Tabarl, TafsTr, xxvii, 213); but al-Qumml 
(fl. fourth/tenth cent.; TafsTr, ii, 350) reports 
that the reference is to ashdb amir al- 
mu'minm, meaning the adherents of 'All, 
the "prince of the believers." 

The question of qadar, "predestination," 
(see freedom and predestination) which 
forms part of the pillars of belief (arkdn al- 
Tmdn, see faith; belief and unbelief) is 
addressed by most exegetes when they deal 
with the question of ashdb al-yamin or ashdb 
al-shimdl. Traditions report that Muham- 
mad appeared one day with two lists, one 
in each hand: the one in his right hand 
containing the names of those who will en- 
ter paradise, and the other, in his left hand, 
containing the names of those destined for 
hell (Tirmidhl, Sahih, no. 2067; Ibn Han- 
bal, Musnad, no. 6275). The records (kutub) 
will be distributed before they are exam- 
ined and each group will be directed to 
their destiny (q.v.). Since one of the most 
beautiful names of God (al-asmd' al-husnd, 
see god and his attributes) is al-'adl, 
"the righteous," authors tried, each one 
according to his creed (see creeds) or sec- 
tarian affiliation, to harmonize the contra- 

r 79 


dietary qur'anic statements. This trend led 
to the belief that the last judgment will be 
a mere formality. Generally, with the ex- 
ception of the Mu'tazila (see mu'tazilis) 
and the Qadariyya (the group which held 
the position of free will), authors discussing 
the problem of the last judgment dealt 
more with the definition of a believer or 
unbeliever than with the matter of deeds 
themselves (Rippin, Muslims, 68-82; Gima- 
ret, Theories, 335-6 [for the Mu'tazilites]). 

According to o 39:67, on the day of res- 
urrection, "the heavens (see heaven and 
sky) shall be rolled up in his right hand." 
Traditions add that the earth (q.v.) shall be 
rolled up in God's left hand (Muslim, Sahih, 
Si/at al-qiydma, no. 4995; see apocalypse). 
Generally, this is taken to refer to God's 
power (see power and impotence), espe- 
cially by the Mu'tazila and the negators of 
anthropomorphism (q.v.), but some circles, 
like the Hanballs and particularly the 
Wahhabis, interpret it literally. Such inter- 
pretation led to the belief that God has 
two hands but that both are right ones, 
since the left hand is an epithet of created 
beings, and not of the creator (see crea- 
tion): inna li-khaliqina yadayn kiltdhuma 
yamlndn, layasdra li-khaliqina idhi l-yasdru min 
sifati l-makhluqin (Ibn Khuzayma, al-Tawhid, 
66; Ibn Fflrak, Mushkil al-hadith, 37-8; 
Blachere, Introduction, 216-21; Gimaret, 
Dieu a I'image, 202-4; Abdel Haleem, Under- 
standing the Qiir'an, 107-22). Sa'ld b. Jubayr 
(d. 95/714) attributed to Ibn 'Abbas a tradi- 
tion stating that the letter yd' at the open- 
ing of o_ 19 (kdf, hd\yd\ 'ayn and sad) stands 
for yamin which is one of the names of 
God (Lisan al-Arab, s.v.y m n', xiii, 459). 
According to a hadlth, the Ka'ba (q.v.) is 
considered to be the right hand of God 
since it is touched and kissed (istildm) 
during the pilgrimage (q.v.; Lisan al-Arab, 
op. cit.). 

In many ancient cultures, the right side 
was considered better than the left side 

(Gen 48:13-20). It symbolized goodness and 
kindness, while the left represented evil, 
the sinister, the bad. In Latin, the term 
sinistra means both left and sinister. In the 
Bible, God's right hand represents his 
strong arm (Exod 15:15; Isa 62:8; Ps 
118:15-6; 139:10). The Quran itself (as 
discussed above) and later Islamic tradition 
attest to similar understandings of "left" 
(shimdl) and "right" (yamin). The bay 'a, 
"pledge of allegiance," must be performed 
with the right hand (see contracts and 
alliances; oaths); eating with the left is 
prohibited since this hand is used for 
cleansing after elimination and since Satan 
(see devil) usually eats and drinks using his 
left hand (Muslim, Sahih, no. 3763-6; see 
food and drink; ritual purity; lawful 
and unlawful). One should enter a 
mosque (q.v.) with the right leg and leave 
with left. During the prayer (q.v.), it is pro- 
hibited to expectorate in the direction of 
the qibla (q.v.) or the right side; while it is 
permitted toward the left side (Abd al- 
Razzaq, Musannaf, i, 430-4). Until recently, 
it was customary in some Muslim countries 
to oblige left-handed children to use their 
right hand. This practice is based on the 
beliefs mentioned above and goes back at 
least to the first period of Islam: when 
Khalid b. al-Walid received Abu Bakr's 
(q.v.) letter ordering him to leave Iraq (q.v.) 
for Syria (al-Sham) to support the Muslim 
forces there, his furious reaction was: "this 
[decision] was surely taken by the left- 
handed man," meaning 'Umar b. al- 
Khattab (q.v.; cf. T arja rf) Ta'rikh, hi, 415). 
'Umar was, in fact, left-handed (Lisan al- 
'Arab, iv, 565, '-s-r). Finally, it is worth men- 
tioning that the Arabic rooty-s-r means 
both "to be or become easy, prosperous," 
and "left, left side." In o_ 87:8, al-yusrd is 
explained as paradise and in Q_ 92:10, 
al-'usrd is hell. 

The terms shimdl andyanun also represent 
north and south. In the archives of Mari, 


the Old Babylonian royal city on the banks 
of the middle Euphrates river, the west 
Semitic yamina, "right," designates the car- 
dinal point south, and sim 'al, "left," indi- 
cates north. This use of south and north is 
deduced from the designation, known only 
from Mari, of certain tribes as dumu.Mes- 
yamina and dumu.Mes-sim'al, 'sons of the 
right' and 'sons of the left' respectively 
(Malamat, Mari and the early Israelite experi- 
ence, 33, 67-8; cf. id., Mari and the Bible, 299). 
The term semol, spelled s-m- '-1, appears in 
Genesis 14:15 and is generally translated as 
"north" — the north representing calamity 
[Jer 1:14). In later Jewish sources, the Devil 
is called Sama'el or Semi'el (see samuel). 
The Arabic name for Greater Syria is al- 
Sha'm or al-Sha'am. Arab lexicographers 
explain that this name is derived from 
shu'm, "bad luck, misfortune" (Bashear, 
Yemen, 351-3). But, might one also suppose 
that Sha'm is an Arabic derivation of the 
West Semitic Sim'al = Shim'al, particularly 
in the light of the clear etymology of al- 
Yaman (Yemen), another ancient Arabic 
designation of a geographic area and a 
cardinal point? 



S. Qjrtb, Mashdhid al-qiydmafi l-Qiir'dn, Beirut 
1975; M.A. Salih, al-Qiydma. Mashdhiduhd wa- 
: i^dtuhdji l-sunna al-nabawiyya, 3 vols., Beirut 
1994, iii, 171-4; M.M. al-Sha'rawI, Mashahid 
yawm al-qiydma, Cairo 2000, 110-20, 226-8; 
TabarT, Tafsir, ed. A.S. 'All et al.; id., Ta'nkh, 
ed. Ibrahim; Tirmidhl, Saluh. 
Secondary: M. Abdel Haleem, Understanding 
the Quran. Themes and style, London 1999; 
K. Ahrens, Muhammed als Religionsstifter, Leipzig 
1935; R. Arnaldez, Mahomet, Paris 1975, 110-22; 
S. Bashear, Yemen in early Islam, in Arabica 
36 (1989), 351-3; Blachere, Introduction; P. Casa- 
nova, Mohammed et la fin du monde, Paris 1911; 
M. Gaudefroye-Demombynes, Mahommet, Paris 
1969, 414-20; D. Gimaret, Dieu a I'image de 
Vhomme, Paris 1997; id, Theories de facte humain en 
theologie musulmane, Paris ig8o;J.A. MacCulloch, 
Hand, in ERE, vi, 492-9; A. Malamat, Mari and the 
Bible, Leiden 1998; id., Mari and the early Israelite 
experience, Oxford 1989; D.S. Margoliouth, Sym- 
bolism [Muslim], in ere, xii, 145-6; A. Rippin, 
Muslims. Their religious beliefs and practices, New 
York 2001*; A. Schimmel, Deciphering the signs of 
God, New York 1994; J.I. Smith and Y. Haddad, 
The Islamic understanding of death and resurrection, 
Albany 1981, 76-97, 127-46; W.M. Watt, Free will 
and predestination in early Islam, London 1948, 
esp. 12-31. 

^eg see anatomy; anthropomorphism 

Legends see narratives; myths and 


Primary: Abd al-Razzaq, Musannaf; id., Tafsir, 
ed. Mustafa Muslim Muhammad; al-Ghazah, 
Abu Hamid Muhammad, al-Durra al-fdkhirafi 
kashf tdum al-dkhira, ed. M.A. Ata, Beirut 1987, 
20-1, 51-7, 72-9; Ibn Furak, Abu Bakr Muham- 
mad b. al-Hasan al-Ansarl, Kitdb Mushkil al-hadith 
wa-baydnihi, Beirut 1980; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad; 
Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Tabsira, 2 vols., Beirut 1986, ii, 
254; Ibn Kathir, al-Nihdya fi l-fitan wa-l-maldhim, 
ed. M.A. 'Abd al-'AzIz, 2 vols., Cairo 1986; id., 
Tafsir, ed. Ghunaym et al.; Ibn Khuzayma, 
Muhammad b. Ishaq al-NlsaburT, Kitdb al-Tawhid 
wa-ithbdt sifdt al-rabb, Beirut 1983; lisdn al-'Arab; 
al-MajlisT, Muhammad Baqir b. Muhammad, 
Bihar al-anwdr, lithographic ed., 25 vols.; Muslim, 
Saluh; al-Nabll, Ahmad b. Abl Asim, Kitdb al- 
Awd'il, ed. M.S. Zaghlul, Beirut 1987; Qumml, 
Tafsir, ii, 384; Qurtnbi, Jdmi'; id., al-Tadhkira fi 
ahwdl al-mawtd wa-umur al-dkhira, ed. M. al- 
Bastawisi, 2 vols., Medina 1997, i, 382-91; 

Legion see ranks and orders 

Legislation see law and the qur'a 


er see illness and health 
Letters see mysterious letters; arabic 


Liar see lie 


To deceive; anything which deceives. The 
polemical context of the qur'anic revela- 
tion and the discursive nature of qur'anic 


scripture make lying one of the most fre- 
quently mentioned sins in the Qur'an (see 
SIN, major and minor). Furthermore, the 
Qur'an 's oft-repeated references to itself as 
"the truth" (q.v.; al-haqq) and the declara- 
tion that God created the entire world 
"with truth" (o_ 46:3), make dishonesty a 
central characteristic of unbelief (kufr) and 
polytheism (shirk), such links sometimes be- 
ing explicitly stated (o_ 16:39; 29:17; see 
Thus, the foremost liars in the Qur'an are 
polytheists (mushrikun) who make false 
claims about God and his prophets, among 
them the accusation that the prophets lie 
(see prophets and prophethood). Both 
sides in this polemic (see polemic and 
polemical language) use the same 
terms: the most common being kadhaba, 
iftara and ijk. In the mouths of unbelievers 
such falsehoods are regarded as among the 
most serious of sins. In the Qur'an, various 
forms of kadhaba are attested eighty-two 
times, iftara sixty times, and ifk in the 
sense of "lie" thirteen times. Other terms 
include ziir, attested four times, and a form 
of kh-r-q that is used once with the mean- 
ing to "falsely attribute" (offspring) to God 
(kharaqu, Q_ 6:100; see god and his attrib- 


The gravity of lying is seen in the re- 
peated question "who is more wicked than 
one who invents falsehoods about God..." 
(wa/ [fa] -man azlamu mimman iftara 'aid lldhi 
kadhiban). This question is posed nine times 
in this form (q_ 6:21, 93, 144; 7:37; 10:17; 
11:18; 18:15; 29:68; 61:7), and twice with 
derivatives of k-dh-b (p_ 6:157; 39:32). This 
is usually directed at polytheists but Q_ 61:7, 
following an excursus on those who re- 
jected Jesus (q.v.), seems directed at Jews 
(see jews and Judaism). Commentators 
such as al-Tabarl (d. 310/923), al- 
Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144) and al-Razi 

(d. 606/1210) think thatjews and Chris- 
tians may also be targets in other cases. 
These passages and others also show that 
lying in the sense of "freely inventing false- 
hoods" cannot in the qur'anic context be 
wholly dissociated from "denying the 
truth" (kadhdhaba) as in "who is more 
wicked than one who invents falsehoods 
about God or (aw) denies the truth" (aw- 
kadhdhaba bi-l-haqq, Q_ 29:68). Due to this, 
and to the fact that terms such as kadhaba 
and kharaqa may denote not only a false 
statement that the speaker knows to be 
false (and by which he means to deceive 
others), but also a false statement that the 
speaker thinks true, it is sometimes difficult 
to restrict the qur'anic meaning of "lies" to 
"freely invented falsehoods"; for those who 
cling to what is simply false — or dress the 
truth with falsehood — (bdtil in 2:42; cf. 
29:68 and eleven other places) are also 
taken to task (see error; astray). The 
hypocrites (munafiqun, see hypocrites and 
hypocrisy) are, in the case of Muham- 
mad's prophetic mission, the second most 
prominent liars after the polytheists. "God 
bears witness that the hypocrites are lying" 
(q 63:1; see also o_ 3:167 and 9:77; see wit- 
nessing and testifying). Other notable 
liars include those who slander other 
people's wives (the scandal of 'A'isha, 
p_ 24:11-24; see 'a'isha bint abi bakr; 
gossip; wives of the prophet), Joseph's 
(q.v.) brothers and Potiphar's wife (p_ 12:17, 
23-8; see women and the qjjr'an) and, 
of course, poets (q_ 26:224-6; see poetry 
and poets). 

Daniel Beaumont 

'Abd al-BaqT; RazI, Tafsir, Cairo 1352/1933, viii, 
140-1; x, 123-6; xxvi, 278; xxviii, 2-3; xxix, 312-3; 
TabarT, Tafsir, ed. 'All, iv, 5; vii, 105, 180-2; viii, 
50-1; xiv, 77-8; xxvi, 2; Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, 
Cairo 1387/1968, ii, 10-1, 34-5, 57; iii, 53, 190, 
201, 293,54-6. 



The vital force that distinguishes organic 
from inorganic matter. At the heart of the 
qur'anic evocation of life are a paradox 
and two paradigms. The paradox arises 
from a dual attitude to, or sense of, "life" 
(hay at). On the one hand, life as an animat- 
ing force in the body is perceived as utterly 
sacred. Humans are urged not to kill their 
children (q.v.) out of fear of being reduced 
to poverty (imlaq, o 17:31; see poverty and 
the poor). God promises that he will pro- 
vide for both parent and child (see family; 
parents) and warns that infanticide (q.v.) 
is a grievous sin (see SIN, major and 
minor). The sanctity of life is stressed 
again a little later in the same sura: "Nor 
take life (al-nafs) — which God has made 
sacred (allatl harrama Allah) — except for 
just cause" (bi-l-haqq, Q_ 17:33; see blood- 
shed; murder; retaliation). Yusuf 'All's 
translation of nafs in Q_ 17:33 is closer to the 
corporeal sense intended than Arberry's 
which reads: "And slay not the soul (al-nafs) 
God has forbidden (q.v.), except by right 

Life in the sense of living out one's cor- 
poreal existence is, however, paradoxically 
fraught with danger, illusion and decep- 
tion. The Qur'an exhibits an almost pla- 
tonic rejection of the life of this world 
(al-hayat al-dunya), characterizing it as noth- 
ing but "play and amusement" (la 'ib wa- 
lahw) and contrasting it with the reward of 
the righteous in the hereafter (q_ 6:32; see 
MENT). There is a virtual repetition of the 
same words in Q_ 57:20 where this leitmotiv 
of al-hayat al-dunya as la'ib wa-lahw is fur- 
ther amplified by its being powerfully 
designated as "goods and chattels of 
deception" (matd' al-ghurur). In the empha- 
sis placed by the text on a physical world of 
transitory illusion and deception, and the 
explicit contrast in o_ 6:32 of this world and 

the next, there are obvious echoes of the 
lament in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3. 

The first paradigm flows directly from 
God's qur'anic designation as "the living" 
(al-hayy q. 2:255; 3:2; 20:111; 25:58; 40:65; 
see god and his attributes): God is 
the central focus of life (al-hayat) in the 
Quran. From him all else that is alive takes 
its being; by him everything is created ex 
nihilo (see creation; cosmology). To use 
Ibn Slna's (d. 428/1037) famous phrase, the 
production of all other life means that God 
is "the necessitating force behind exist- 
ence" (wajib al-wujud, Goichon, Lexique, 
417-8). The Throne Verse (see throne of 
god), which enshrines this concept in the 
Qur'an, is rightly accorded considerable 
prominence and respect in Islam: 

God! There is no god but he, the living (al- 
hayy), eternal (al-qayyum). No slumber can 
seize him, nor sleep (q.v.). His are all things 
in the heavens (see heaven and sky) and 
on earth (q.v.). Who is there who can inter- 
cede (see intercession) in his presence 
except as he permits? He knows what 
[appears to his creatures as] before or be- 
hind them. Nor shall they compass aught 
of his knowledge except as he wills. His 
throne does extend over the heavens and 
the earth, and he feels no fatigue in pre- 
serving them both. For he is the most high, 
the supreme [in glory] (q_ 2:255). 

This Throne Verse is "one of the most 
famous and beloved of the verses of the 
Qur'an, frequently recited as a protection 
against harm or evil" (Netton, Popular dic- 
tionary, 45; see popular and talismanic 
uses of the qljr'an; everyday life, the 
q_ur'an in). It is a verse which proclaims 
God's life, his self-subsisting and eternal 
nature, his vigilance, his divine ownership 
of his creation, his omniscience, his divine 
will (see freedom and predestination), 
his transcendence and unknowableness, his 

i8 3 

power, his glory (q.v.) and his unity. It thus 
encapsulates a lucid, thumbnail sketch of 
many of the most important divine attrib- 
utes. Although they are articulated as sepa- 
rate epithets, "the living" (al-hayy) and "the 
eternal" (al-qayyum) are logically to be 
identified as a unity according to the classi- 
cal doctrine of the oneness of God [tawhid, 
Commenting on this verse, Yusuf 'All 
(1872-1953) notes: "His Life is absolute Life, 
his Being is absolute Being, while others 
are contingent and evanescent..." (Yusuf 
'All, Holy Qur'an, 103, n. 297). For Islam and 
the Qur'an, God is life and the creator and 
divine dispenser of life. 

R. Arnaldez (Hayat, 302) reminds us that 
"al-Zamakhshari [d. 538/1144] states that 
hayy in the technical language of the theo- 
logians, describes one who has knowledge 
and power" (see knowledge and learn- 
ing; power and impotence). This con- 
centration of "life" and "power" is an 
ancient archetype of the divine as seen, 
for example, in the hieroglyphic portrayals 
of the deities in Egypt (q.v.; see Hornung, 
Conceptions of God, 199-200; but cf. 230-3). 
Further, such ancient archetypes portray 
an idea of "the creator's loving care" for 
his creation — rather than Aristotle's "un- 
moved" First Mover. In the Islamic para- 
digm, as well, the creator maintains 
(chosen) life by means both ordinary and 
extraordinary. Divine benefaction and sus- 
tenance (rizq) is mentioned frequently as 
are such acts of intervention as sending 
angels (see angel) to fight on the side of 
Muhammad at the battle of Badr (q.v.) in 
2/624(0 3:123-5; 8:4, 9). 

The verses in the Qur'an which refer to 
life (al-hayat) and to God as "the living" 
(al-hayy), were revealed in a particular his- 
torical milieu (see history and the 
qur'an; chronology and the qur'an). 
Despite such barbarities as the burial alive 
of newly born female infants (see o 17:31; 

Yusuf All, Holy Qur'an, 703 n. 2214), the 
pre-Islamic notion of Mecca (q.v.) as a 
sanctuary for visitors and as a sacred terri- 
tory [haram, see geography) together with 
the concept of sacred months (q.v.; Sha- 
ban, Islamic history, 3; Q_ 2:194, 217), illustrate 
an environment in which there was some 
attempt at respect for, and preservation of, 
life. Later under the new qur'anic dispen- 
sation, blood revenge [tha'r, see blood 
money) would be replaced by just retalia- 
tion [qisds, see Q_ 2:178-9; 17:33), thus inau- 
gurating a new "respect for life" and, 
theoretically, further diminution of blood- 
shed and life lost. 

God's fundamental generative power 
whereby he creates new life ex nihilo is a 
basic leitmotiv of the sacred text. It is 
clothed with a basic biology (q_ 23:12-16; 
see biology as the creation and 
stages OF life) in which the human body 
is portrayed as developing, dying (see 
DEATH and THE dead) and then being 
brought to life again (lit. tub'athuna, Q_ 23:16) 
on the day of judgment (yawm al-qiydma, 
see LAST judgment). The image here is of 
new, eternal life being born, or reborn, out 
of the distress, fires, convulsions and ter- 
rors of that last day, with a greater fire 
(q.v.), that of hell, as the final reward of 
the wicked (q_ 52:13-4; see hell and hell- 
fire). While eternal life will be born out of 
the cataclysm of the last day, humankind's 
diurnal present life (al-hayat al-dunyd) is lik- 
ened in the Qur'an to rainwater (ma', see 
water; nature as signs; blessing). This 
is sent down by God from the skies to 
refresh the earth (see agriculture and 
vegetation), assist in the production of 
food and provide an, albeit ephemeral, 
earthly paradise (q.v.) which God will cause 
to pass (q_ 10:24; see food and drink; 
garden). It is this temporary aspect of the 
results of the life-giving water which is 
stressed here, together with the transient 
dimension of human life. There is a vivid 

and obvious contrast that can be made 
between these images and the water imag- 
ery of the New Testament in which it is 
proclaimed "The water I give him will be a 
spring of water within him, that flows con- 
tinually to bring him everlasting life" (John 
4:14; see scripture and the qur'an). 

The first paradigm mentioned above is 
that of God's creative gift of life and of the 
individual's grateful return of that life to 
God at the moment of death. This life has, 
ideally, been enriched by faith (q.v.) and 
good works (o_ 2:277; 9:19-20; see good 
deeds) if paradise is to be the final destina- 
tion of the individual (see gratitude and 
ingratitude; gift-giving). In the begin- 
ning, God creates the first man, Adam (see 
adam and eve), from clay (q.v.), breathes 
into him his spirit (q.v.) and displays him to 
the angels for their admiration and respect 
(o_ 15:26-39). There is an archetypical "gift- 
ing" at the beginning of human time of 
new life to a new creation. And God does 
not forget his creation but guides, sustains 
and cures the previous life he has instituted 
(o_ 26:78-80; see astray; illness and 
health), sends the final revelation, that of 
the Qur'an as the last and ultimate guide- 
book to paradise (o_ 31:3; see revelation 
and inspiration). On the last day, he will 
raise the old life to a new one (o_ 26:81; see 
resurrection). According to this para- 
digm, God, the archetypical and only cre- 
ator and controller of life, gives life twice, 
first at birth and then by ultimately raising 
his creation to a new form of existence 
(q 56:60-2). 

The second paradigm interwoven into, 
and to be extrapolated from, the fabric of 
the Qur'an is that of life as a journey (q.v.) 
from terrestrial to celestial life. Man's life 
involves much exertion and a hard toiling 
[kadih, see work) towards his lord (q.v.) but 
the final encounter is assured (q_ 84:6) after 
a journey from "stage to stage" [tabaqan 'an 

tabaqin, Q_ 84:19). As Yusuf All puts it in his 
comment on the latter verse: "Man travels 
and ascends stage by stage. In o_ 67:3 the 
same word in the form tibaqan was used of 
the heavens, as if they were in layers one 
above another. Man's spiritual life may 
similarly be compared to an ascent from 
one heaven to another" (Yusuf All, Holy 
Qur'an, 1711 n. 6047). 

During the life journey the human is 
tested (q_ 2:155; 3:186; 47:31; 57:25; see 
trial) and perhaps the archetypical 
"questing and testing" encounter in the 
Qur'an, one which graphically illustrates 
that in such testing God's ways are not 
human ways, is the famous encounter 
between Moses (q.v.; Musa) and al-Khidr 
(see khadir/khidr). This occupies a sub- 
stantial section of the eighteenth sura, 
Surat al-Kahf ("The Cave," Q_ 18:60-82). 
The essential nature of a human's life jour- 
ney (a journey palely adumbrated in this 
qur'anic encounter between Moses and 
al-Khidr but with a different objective) is 
that it is always a return to God, for re- 
ward or punishment. The created return 
to their source, the creator (o_ 6:60, 72; 

Life, then, in the Qur'an has both a 
macro and a micro dimension, if it is 
viewed in terms of a journey (rihla). From 
the global or macro viewpoint, all living 
beings, originating in, and created by, God, 
are journeying en masse in multifarious 
form towards the final cataclysm of the last 
day, a day of rebirth as well as destruction: 
"One day the earth will be changed to a 
different earth, and so will be the heavens" 
(q_ 14:48; see apocalypse). From a micro 
perspective, each human life has an indi- 
vidual path to tread and an individual sal- 
vation (q.v.) to achieve: the wicked will be 
reborn to new life in eternal torment and 
the just and the righteous, who have fol- 
lowed "the straight path" [al-sirat al- 

i8 S 


mustaqim, see path or way) articulated so 
clearly and so often in the Qur'an, will be 
reborn to eternal bliss. It is a return and a 
rebirth to a new life which will be accom- 
plished in profound haste, almost as if both 
return and rebirth were long overdue, or 
the divine cosmic patience with humanity 
had suddenly exhausted itself: "On that 
day we shall leave them to surge (yamujuj 
like waves on one another: the trumpet will 
be blown, and we shall collect them all to- 
gether (q_ 18:99) The day whereon they 

will issue from their sepulchres in sudden 
haste (sira'an) as if they were rushing 
(yujiduna) to a goal-post [fixed for them] " 

(a 70:43)- 

In conclusion, earthly life, the return and 
the eschaton are, for the Muslim, different 
aspects of a single, multi-dimensional, 
eschatological frame (see eschatology). 
This is, as it were, our ultimate paradigm 
and ultimate paradox. Real life, for Islam, 
of necessity involves death coupled with a 
realizable eschatology whose basis is eter- 
nal life: 

All of human history, then, moves from 
the creation to the eschaton. Preceding the 
final judgement will come signs (both cos- 
mic and moral) signaling the arrival of the 
Hour as well as the specific events of the 
resurrection and assessment. Within this 
overall structure is the individual cycle 
which specifies the events of creation, 
death and resurrection. Part of the fatalis- 
tic determinism of the pre-Islamic Arabs 
was their sense that each human life is for a 
fixed term or ajal. It is immutably set; on 
the appointed day one's life comes to an 
end. This idea of an ajal is repeated in the 
Qur'an, both for individuals [o_ 6:2; 7:34; 
16:61; 20:129] and for nations [q_ 10:49, 
15:4-5]" (Smith and Haddad, Islamic under- 
standing, 5). 

This remains the fundamental Islamic 
paradigm for both medieval and modern 
Islamic theology (see theology and the 
q_ur'an), whatever the glosses of individual 
verses (dydt) by contemporary exegesis (see 

and contemporary). It is worth noting, 
however, that the medieval philosophers 
(faldsifa) often developed a different set of 
conceptions about the cycle of life, some of 
which appear difficult to reconcile with the 
basic theological positions of the Qur'an 
(see Arnaldez, Hayat, 303). 

Ian Richard Netton 

Primary: A. Yusuf Ah (trans.), The holy Qur'an. 
Text, translation, commentary, Kuwait 1984; Arberry, 
2 vols., London 1971; Ibn Slna, Abu { Ali al- 
Husayn b. Abdallah, Kitab al-Isharat wa-l-tanbihat, 
ed. S. Dunya, 4 vols., Cairo 1957-67; R. Knox 
(trans.), The holy Bible, London i960; Zamakh- 
sharl, Kashshaf. 

Secondary: R. Arnaldez, Hayat, in EI 2 , iii, 302-3; 
N.J. Coulson, A history of Islamic law, Edinburgh 
1964; A.-M. Goichon, lexique de la langue philo- 
sophique dTbn Sina, Paris 1938; E. Hornung, Con- 
ceptions of God in ancient Egypt. The one and the many, 
trans. J. Baines, London ig83;J. Horovitz, Jewish 
proper names and derivations in the Koran, Hildesheim 
1925, 54 (for hayy in the Qur'an); I.R. Netton, 
A popular dictionary of Islam, London 1992; id., 
Theophany as paradox. Ibn al-Arabi's account 
of al-Khadir in his Fusus al-hikam, in Journal of the 
Aluhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society 11 (1992), n-22; id., 
Towards a modern tafsir of Surat al-Kahf. Struc- 
ture and semiotics, in Journal of qur'anic studies 
2 (2000), 67-87; M.A. Shaban, Islamic history 
a.d. 600-750 (a.m. 132). A new interpretation, Cam- 
bridge 1971; M.A. Sharif, Searchingfor solace. 
A biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, interpreter of the 
Qur'an, Kuala Lumpur 1994; J.I. Smith and Y.Y. 
Haddad, The Islamic understanding of death and 
resurrection, Albany 1981; W.M. Watt, Companion 
to the Qur'an, London 1967. 

Life after Death see eschatology; 
resurrection; paradise; hell and 
hellfire; reward and punishment 



Lifetime see destiny; fate; life; death 



The emanation from a light-giving body: 
the essential condition for vision (see 


hearing) — the opposite of darkness 
(q.v.). The Quran is rich in references to 
light, both in the literal sense of the word 
as well as in symbolic and metaphoric 
senses (see metaphor; symbolic 
imagery). The most common word for 
light is nur, although diya' also appears on 
three occasions (also misbah and siraj; see 
also lamp and fire). 

Light as niir most frequently appears jux- 
taposed to darkness (lulumat). This is most 
common in the phrase "From the darkness 
into the light" (mina l-^ulumdti ilci l-nuri) 
which appears at least seven times in the 
Qur'an (r. 2:257; 5:16; 14:1, 5; 33:43; 57:9; 
65:11). In this context, light functions both 
as that with which one can see clearly in 
a literal sense and also as a metaphoric 
source of guidance and illumination, 
wherein darkness is akin to ignorance (q.v.) 
and being led astray (q.v.). In the first 
sense, light versus darkness is compared to 
having sight versus being blind (e.g. 
Q_ 13:16: "Say: Is the blind equal with one 
who sees or is darkness equal with light?"; 
this verse is repeated almost verbatim in 
o 35:19). Elsewhere the direct connection 
between light and seeing versus darkness 
and not seeing is clearly evoked: "God 
took away their light and left them in 
darkness so they could not see" (q_ 2:17), 
and the evocative "Or like the darkness 
in a deep ocean surmounted by crashing 
waves with dark clouds above — dark- 
nesses, one on top of the other. If he 
puts out his hand he can hardly see it. 
Therefore for anyone for whom God did 

not make a light, there is no light" 
(q_ 24:40). 

In its sense as guidance, light is very 
closely related to the important issues of 
revelation and prophecy (see revela- 
prophethood). The Torah (q.v.) and Gos- 
pel (q.v; injil) are referred to as "guidance 
and light" (hudan wa-niirun) in Q_ 5:44 and 
Q_ 5:46. This is repeated for the Torah 
again in 6:91: "Say: Who sent down the 
book (q.v.) that Moses (q.v.; Miisa) brought 
as light and guidance for humankind (nuran 
wa-hudan lil-nas}?" Elsewhere, the word 
diya' is used for the revelation sent to 
Moses: "Indeed we gave Moses and Aaron 
(q.v.; Hartin) the criterion (q.v; al-furqdn) 
and a light (diyd'an) and a reminder for 
those who do right" (q_ 21:48; see memory). 

Light is also used to indicate the revela- 
tion received by Muhammad (see names 
of the qur'an): "So believe in God and 
his messenger (q.v), and the light (niir) that 
we sent down" (o 64:8); "And thus we sent 
to you a spirit (q.v.; ruh) by our command. 
You did not know what the book was nor 
faith (q.v.), but we made it a light (niir) with 
which we guide whom we wish of our 
servants" (q_ 42:52); "O humankind! Indeed 
a proof (q.v; burhdri) has come to you from 
your lord (q.v). And we sent down to you a 
manifest light (nuran mubinan)" (q_ 4:174). 
The majority of instances, however, ap- 
pear to use "light" (niir) as a reference to 
prophecy rather than qur'anic revelation: 
"There has come to you from God a light 
and a clear [or manifest] book (kitdbun 
mubinunj" (q_ 5:15); "It is those who believe 
in him, honor him, help him, and follow 
the light that is sent down with him — it is 
they who will prosper" (q_ 7:157). In one 
instance, Muhammad is referred to expli- 
citly as a source of light: "And an inviter to 
God by his leave, and a light-giving lamp 
(sirajan muniran)" (o 33:46; see NAMES OF 
the prophet). 

,8 7 

The word mubin, normally translated as 
"clear" or "manifest," has a special signifi- 
cance in instances where "light" refers to 
revelation and prophecy, since in Arabic 
mubin and the root b-y-n mean not only 
"clear" but also "readily apparent." Thus 
phrases such as kitdb mubin, "clear book" (as 
in Q_ 5:15 mentioned above) or the common 
ayat bayyandt, "manifest signs (q.v.), clear 
verses (q.v.)," carry a connotation of being 
"lit up" and clearly visible, not just "clear" 
in the sense of "easily understood." 

Three verses refer to the light (nur) of 
God: "And the earth will shine with the 
light of its lord" (o 39:22); two are almost 
identical in their phrasing: "They wish to 
extinguish the light of God with their 
mouths, but God will not allow but that he 
would perfect his light, even though the 
unbelievers detest it" (q_ 9:32; also o_ 61:8; 
see belief AND unbelief). Commentators 
on the Qur'an (see exegesis of the 
qur'an: classical and medieval) have 
understood this variously to refer to the 
glory (q.v.) of God or to his message. 

Light also refers to the sun (q.v.) and 
moon (q.v.) where moonlight is called nur 
and sunlight diya': "He is the one who 
made the sun a light and the moon a light 
(ja'ala l-shams diya'an wa-l-qamar nuran, 
Q_ 10:5). Elsewhere, the moon is referred to 
as light (nur) while the sun is called a lamp 
{dry, g_ 71:16; cf. 25:61; 78:13). 

The most important reference to light is 
in Q_ 24:35: "God is the light of the heavens 
and the earth. The parable of his light is as 
a niche (mishkat) in which is a lamp; the 
lamp encased in glass; the glass as if it 
were a shining star lit from a blessed tree, 
an olive, neither of the east nor of the 
west, whose oil would burn bright even if 
no fire touched it. Light upon light, God 
guides to his light whom he wishes, and 
God puts forth parables for human beings, 
and God is knowing of all things." The 
sura of the Qur'an in which this verse 

occurs is named Surat al-Nur, "The 
Light," and the verse is popularly known as 
the Light Verse (ayat al-nur). It has enjoyed 
a special significance in mystical commen- 
taries on the Qur'an (see sufism and the 
q_ur'an). Thus the early and influential 
Sufi Sahl al-Tustarl (d. 283/898) sees 
this verse as a reference to the "light of 
Muhammad" (nur Muhammad), which func- 
tions in its primordial sense as a veil to hide 
the inscrutable nature of God (Bowering, 
Mystical, 149-51). The Persian mystic 
Ruzbihan Baqli al-Shirazi (d. 606/1209) 
took a particularly esoteric reading of this 
verse, speaking of a darkness of non-being 
(zulmat al- 'adorn) lying between the letters 
kaf and nun of the word kawn, "existence," 
and untouched by the light of either letter 
(see ARABIC script). Kawn, existence, is like 
an illuminated niche, lit up by the light of 
divine qualities (sifat; see GOD and his 
attributes). By looking at this niche we 
can see the light of the letters kaf and niin 
of "existence" (Shirazi, 'Ara'is, 81; cf. 
Bursawl, Tafsir, vi, 152 f, for further discus- 
sion of this verse). 

Light as an important religious concept 
became central to Sufi practice and in the 
philosophy of virtually all Muslim neo- 
Platonists (see philosophy and the 
q_ur'an). It also occupied a central place in 
the Persian Islamic philosophical tradition 
commonly referred to as the illumination 
(ishraqi) school, whose most famous expo- 
nent, Shihab al-Dln Yahya al-Suhrawardi, 
was executed for holding heretical beliefs 
in 587/ngi (see heresy; literature and 
the qjur'an). 

JamalJ. Elias 

Primary: S. Ates, Isari tefstr okulu, Ankara 1974; 
al-BursawT, Isma'il Haqqi, Tafsir ruh al-bayan, 
10 vols., originally written in 1721, repr. n.d.; 
Ruzbihan Baqli al-Shirazi, 'Ara'is at-bayanfi 
haqcriq al-Qur'an, Cawnpore 1884. 


Secondary: Bbwering, Mystical; H. Corbin, The 
man of light in Iranian Sufism, Boulder 1978; 
U. Rubin, Pre-existence and light. Aspects of the 
concept of nur Muhammad, in 10s 5 (1975), 
62-119; J. Walbridge, The science of mystic lights. 
Qutb al-Dln Shirazi and the illuminationist tradition in 
Islamic philosophy, Cambridge, MA 1992. 

Lightning see weather 


Lips see ANATOMY 

Listen see hearing and deafness; seeing 



The ability to read and, often, to write. Lit- 
eracy (framed in contemporary Arabic by 
expressions such as ma'rifat al-qira'a wa-l- 
kitaba, thaqafa and their derivatives) is in 
many cultures considered a primary requi- 
site for learning and education. In Arabia 
at the beginning of the first/seventh cen- 
tury, however, oral transmission of knowl- 
edge, memorization and the spoken word 
had a long tradition and were highly ap- 
preciated among the tribes (see tribes and 
clans; orality and writing in Arabia; 
memory; speech). Until that time, the 
use of writing and written matter — due 
also to the material conditions at that 
time — played a minor role (see material 
culture and the chjr'an). Apparently 
reflecting this situation, the Quran seems 
to consider issues related to literacy of sub- 
ordinate importance to those of its coun- 
terpart, illiteracy. Nevertheless, literacy is 
implied to a certain extent and acquires 
significance whenever mention is made of 
the holy book (q.v.; al-kitab, al-Qur'dn), read- 
ing and teachings from holy scriptures 
(kutub, suhuf), knowledge and education in 

more general terms (see knowledge and 
learning), or means of writing such as ink 
and pencil (see writing and writing 
materials; instruments). 

The qur'anic statements concerning the 
theologically important question of 
whether the Arabian Prophet was literate 
or not remain ambiguous. In Q_ 25:5, for 
example, Muhammad's opponents (see 
opposition to muhammad) discredit the 
Prophet by claiming that he was not re- 
ceiving a divine revelation but was merely 
relying on "writings of the ancients [asdtir 
al-aivwalin, see generations) which he has 
written down [or which he has had written 
down] (iktatabahd) and which were dictated 
to him (tumid 'alayhi) at dawn and in the 
early evening (q.v.; see also day, times 
of)." On the other hand, o 29:48 addresses 
Muhammad by stating "not before this 
[revelation] did you read/recite (tatlu) any 
book or inscribe it with your right hand, 
for then those who follow falsehood would 
have doubted." (For this question and for 
the possible meanings of al-nabi al-ummi, 
see Giinther, Muhammad, 7-12; see also 
ummi; illiteracy.) 

The five verses that are generally consid- 
ered by Muslim tradition to comprise the 
first revelation to Muhammad stress the 
written nature of religious knowledge: 

Read/recite (iqra ') in the name of your 
lord who created. Created man of a blood- 
clot (see blood and blood clot)! Read/ 
recite [words of the holy scripture] ! And 
your lord, the most generous, is the one 
[variant a:] who taught [the use of] the pen 
[variant b:] who taught by the pen. Taught 
man what he knew not [before]! (q_ 96:1-5). 

Although another tradition favors Q_ 74:1-5 
as the first verses revealed, Q_ 96:1-5 never- 
theless belongs to the very oldest parts of 
the textus receptus of the Qur'an. This would 
mean that Islam, from its very beginning, 



in a remarkably impressive way prioritizes 
the gaining of (religious) knowledge, learn- 
ing and education. 

Q_ 96:4-5, "who taught by the pen, taught 
man what he knew not" (alladhi 'allama bi-l- 
qalami; 'allama l-insdna ma lam ya'lam) seems, 
according to a translation variant, to make 
an allusion to the "art of writing" as being 
a divinely granted human ability. The 
prepositional expression bi-l-qalami is then 
not to be understood as instrumental 
("with the help of the pen") but as a kind 
of second object ("the pen," like in 
Q_ 2:282, with its allusion to God's teaching 
writing; see grammar and the qur'an). 
This understanding, "who taught writing 
with the pen" ('allama al-khatta bi-l-qalami), 
is reported to have been found in the 
ancient Qur'an codex of 'Abdallah b. al- 
Zubayr, who was a member of the 
commission appointed by the third caliph, 
'Ufhman (r. 23-35/644-56), to collect 
officially and publish the text of the 
Qur'an (cf. Jeffery, Materials, 229; see 
THE q_ur'an). It would indicate that God is 
the one who taught humankind the script 
"and other things" they did not know 
before (ma'a ashyd'a ghayri dhdlika, Tabari, 
Tafsir, xii, 646) by teaching them the use of 
the pen. This understanding is reflected in 
the Qur'an translations by Yusuf 'All, "He 
who taught (the use of) the pen," Shakir, 
"Who taught (to write) with the pen," and 
Paret (see also Noldeke, Review, 723; and 
Paret, Kommentar, 515). 

It is also possible (as a second variant), 
however, to understand the phrase as a 
general reference to knowledge of the 
revelation (see revelation and inspira- 
tion), which has been handed down by 
God to humankind through holy scriptures 
(Buhl, Das Leben, 137-8; Bell, Origin of Is lain, 
93-4; id., Qur'an, ii, 635; Paret, Kommentar, 
515; the translations by Arberry, "Who 
taught by the pen," and Pickthall, "Who 

teacheth by the pen" are in this vein). Such 
an understanding would associate the con- 
tent of these — God's teachings — with 
the "guarded tablet" [al-lawh al-mahfu^, 
85:22; see preserved tablet; heav- 
enly book), on which the revelation is 
preserved in heaven in written form (see 
also Fuck, Das Problem, 1). It would refer 
to the heavenly archetype of the Qur'an, 
whose "pages [are] highly-honored, up- 
lifted, purified by the hands of scribes 
(safara) noble, pious" (q_ 80:13-5; see also 
85:21-2; 56:77-80; 98:2-3; 74:52; for safara 
meaning "scribes," "reciters" or "angels," 
see T a barl, Tafsir, xii, 445-6; Qurtubl, 
Jdmi', xix, 216; for the Semitic context of 
safara that clearly indicates the meaning of 
"scribes," see Horovitz, Proper names, 229; 
furthermore Jeffery, Qur'an, 13, 15; Paret, 
Kommentar 502). 

On the other hand, this passage could re- 
fer more specifically to the holy scriptures 
(see also Q_ 2:151; 4:113; 6:91; 55:1-4), which 
had emerged from the heavenly "tablet" 
and which had been revealed to prophets 
before Muhammad (such as suhuf Ibrahim 
wa-Musa, the "scrolls of Abraham [q.v.] 
and Moses [q.v.]," in Q_ 87:18-9; also 2:53; 
46:12; see prophets and prophethood). 
Jews and Christians had been reading 
these older scriptures (yaqra'una l-kitdb, 
Q_ 10:94), even though some among them 
had denied them when Muhammad came 
to them (q_ 2:101-2; see jews and Judaism; 
christians and Christianity). (For the 
meaning of kitdb and ahl al-kitdb in the 
Qur'an, see book, people of the book, 
scripture and the qjur'an; Augapfel, 
Das kitdb, also provides specific informa- 
tion; cf. Berg, Tabari's exegesis; Buhl, 'Die 
Schrift'; Kiinstlinger, Die Namen; Tisdall, 
'The Book'.) 

The term tald, "reading" and/or "re- 
citing," occurs sixty-three times in the 
Qur'an: the Children of Israel (q.v.) study 
the scripture (tatluna l-kitdb, Q_ 2:44); Jews 


I (JO 

read in the Torah (q.v.; Q 3:93); Jews and 
Christian read/recite their scripture 
{yatluna l-kitab, Q 2:113), some of them at 
night (p_ 3:113; see DAY and night). Read- 
ing the scripture in an accurate manner 
means to believe in God or, believe in it 
(i.e. the Scripture; Q 2:121). Biblical narra- 
tives, which provide exemplary instruction 
for believers, are reported to have been 
read, and it is said that they be read/"re"- 
cited: such narratives include the story of 
Gain and Abel (q.v; p_ 5:27), Solomon (q.v.; 
ft 7:175), Noah (q.v; Q 10:71), Abraham 
(q 26:69), Moses and the Pharaoh (q.v; 
28:3). Q 18:83 indicates that Muhammad 
(or possibly Moses) is even directed to 
read/recite something relating to dhu 
l-qarnayn (generally understood to be Alex- 
ander the Great, but possibly here refer- 
ring to the devil [q.v.] ; see Alexander) 
when asked about him. But reading or 
reciting is not solely a human activity: 
satans read/re-cite (tatlu) something about 
Solomon (q 2:102). 

Most times, however, tald refers in general 
terms to reading the holy scriptures (kitdb, 
suhuf), reciting verses of the Qur'an, or 
reading the Qur'an (o_ 2:44, 113; 129, 151, 
252; 3:58, 101, 108, 164; 6:151; 8:2, 31; 10:15, 
16, 61; 13:10; 17:107; 18:27; 19:58; 19:73; 
22:72; 23:66, 105; 27:92; 28:45, 53; 28:59; 

29 : 45> 5 1 ! 3 i: 7; 33 : 34; 34 : 43; 37:3; 39 : 7!; 
45:6, 8, 25, 31; 46:7; 62:2; 65:11; 68:15 like 
83:13; 98:2; see RECITATION OF THE 
qur'an). Tald 'aid indicates more emphatic- 
ally that God establishes a rule for people, 
which they learn by reading/reciting the 
teachings of the holy book (q 4:127; 5:1; 
22:30; 23:72; see law and the qur'an; 
boundaries and precepts; lawful and 
unlawful; forbidden; prohibited 
degrees). In Q 68:15 and Q 83:13, an un- 
named unbeliever is mentioned who, 
"when our signs (q.v.) are read/re-cited to 
him," will say "[these are only] 'writings of 
the ancients'." That the expression asdtir 

al-awwalin, which is relevant in this regard 
as well, refers to "writings" can be under- 
stood, for example, from Q 68:37, "Or do 
you have a book in which you study!" (For 
further references, see illiteracy; for 
yasturuna meamngyakhuttuna, yaktubuna, see 
Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 177-8.) 

Another important term, qara'a, also indi- 
cates both "reading" and "reciting." Only 
the verses of Q 96:1-3 start with the imper- 
ative, iqra', to introduce God's command to 
the Prophet to "repeat" verses of the reve- 
lation (see also Paret, Muhammed, 47-8). 
This mode of introduction, "re-cite" or 
"read," seems to express in one word the 
primary motive for the entire proclamation 
of the Qur'an and its programmatic char- 
acter: Muhammad was called upon to 
speak aloud a holy text. If qara'a means 
"reciting," however, it would not necessar- 
ily imply a writing or the ability to read as 
prerequisites. If it refers to "reading," 
Muslim commentators have noted that 
Muhammad was inspired by a scripture in 
a divine language (see language, con- 
cept of), which would not require any 
knowledge of reading or writing profane 
language. (For the idea that it was a "writ- 
ing" from which Muhammad was ordered 
to "read," see the famous biography of 
the Prophet by Ibn Ishaq [d. ca. 150/ 
767]; see Ibn Ishaq, Sua, i, 236, n. 5; Ibn 
Ishaq-Guillaume, 106; see also, Schoeler, 
Charakter, 59-117; for the etymology and the 
meaning of the word "Qur'an," see names 

q 7:145 confirms that God had "written" 
(kataba) for Moses "an admonition (see 
exhortations) of every kind, and a dis- 
tinguishing of everything," and he had 
done so "upon the tablets," which he had 
handed over to Moses on Mount Sinai 
(q.v.) so that he would command his people 
according to those laws (see command- 

"J 1 


ments). Q_ 5:110 states that God had taught 
Jesus (q.v.) the "book (kitab), the wisdom 
(q.v.), the Torah and the Gospel" (q.v.; see 
also o_ 3:48-9). The Quran is taught by 
God as well (q_ 53:5; 55:1-2). It is then the 
duty of God's messengers (see messenger) 
to "read" God's signs to the people (yatlu 
'alayhim ayatihi) and to "teach them the 
book and the wisdom, and [to] purify 
them" (q 3:164; also Q_ 2:129, 151; 4:113; 
62:2; 65:4). 

A warning of certain writings is given in 
Q_ 2:78-9; there are books written by some 
Jews who do not "read" (or consciously 
"ignore") the holy scripture but fabricate 
by themselves writings different from the 
holy text as revealed (see forgery): "And 
there are some among them (i.e. the Jews) 
who are not reading the holy scripture 
(ummiyyun), who do not know the book but 
know only fancies and mere conjectures. 
But woe to those who write the book with 
their hands and then say 'This is from 
God,' that they may sell it for a small price. 
So woe to them for what their hands have 
written " 

The books in which all the deeds of hu- 
man beings are recorded until the day of 
judgment (see last judgment), and the 
idea that God "writes" (kataba) everything 
that people do, are mentioned many times 
(see record of human actions). For 
example, the Qur'an warns that God 
"write [s] down what they (the people) send 
before and what they have left behind. [He 
has] taken account of everything in a clear 
register" (q_ 36:12); his "messengers (i.e. the 
guardian angels) are writing down what 
you are devising" (q_ 10:21; also 43:80); 
"everything that they have done is in the 
scrolls (of the former generations); and 
everything, great or small, is inscribed 
(mustatar)" (p_ 54:52-3); God "writes down" 
(wa-llahu yaktubu) everything that some peo- 
ple think up all night (or plot, yubayyituna) 
"other than" what you [Muhammad] say 

(q 4:81; cf. also Paret, Der Koran, 68). 

Sura 68, entitled "The Pen," starts with 
the oath "[I swear] by the pen, and that 
which they inscribe" (wa-l-qalami wa-ma 
yasturiina) . This verse, possibly the second 
oldest verse in the qur'anic revelation 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, xii, 645), lends itself to sev- 
eral explanations: it is understood to allude 
to (a) the art of writing or (b) the scripture 
of revelation or, again, to (c) the pen with 
which all the deeds and the fate of every 
person are recorded (Paret, Kommentar, 516). 
Medieval commentators draw special at- 
tention to the latter concept, i.e. that be- 
fore heaven (see heaven and sky), water 
(q.v.) and earth (q.v.), God created the pen 
which inscribes all happenings until the 
day of resurrection (q.v; awwalu ma khalaqa 
llahu al-qalam..., based on a prophetic say- 
ing; see e.g. T arja rf) Tafsir, xii, 177-8). Inci- 
dentally, the idea of the many pens and 
seas of ink (midad, 18:109; cf. 31:27) also 
occurs in Jewish sources (cf. Strack/Biller- 
beck, Kommentar, ii, 587; Haeuptner, Koran- 
ische Hinweise, 99-100). 

Writing as a way to fix juridical matters, 
however, is clearly favored in the Qur'an. 
In Q_ 2:282-3, the need for people who are 
able to write, the importance of written 
documents, and the practices of writing 
and dictating become evident. Detailed in- 
structions as to how to proceed are even 
given: "O believers, when you contract a 
debt (q.v.) one upon another for a stated 
term, then write it down! And let a writer 
(katib) write it down between you justly. 
And let not any writer refuse to write it 
down, as God has taught him [i.e. the art 
of writing]. So let him write it down. And 
let the debtor dictate! [...] And if the 
debtor be a fool, or weak, or unable to dic- 
tate himself, then let his guardian (see 
guardianship) dictate justly... [...] And 
be not loath to write it down, whether it 
(i.e. the amount) be small or great...! That 
is more equitable in God's sight... But take 



witnesses whenever you are trafficking one 
with another! And let neither a scribe nor a 
witness suffer harm. [...] And if you are 
upon a journey, and you do not find a 
writer, then a pledge [?] in hand [should be 
required]" (cf. Tabari, Tafsir, hi, 117; Tyan, 
Histoire, i, 73; Schacht, Origins, 186; Nol- 
deke, gq, i, 78-84; Buhl, Das Leben, 136-8; 
Khoury, Koran, hi, 249-54 f° r more detailed 
explanations and references). 

Verkilndigung des arabischen Propheten, Stuttgart 1957; 
J. Schacht, The origins of Muhammadan jurispru- 
dence, Oxford 1950; G. Schoeler, Charakter und 
Authentic der muslimischen Uberlieferung ilher das 
Leben Mohammeds, Berlin 1996 (esp. chap. 2); 
Speyer, Erzdhlungen; H.L. Strack and P. Biller- 
beck, Kommentar Neuen Testament aus Talmud 
und Midrasch, 6 vols, in 7, Munich 1922-61, ii; 
W.St.C. Tisdall, 'The Book' of the 'People of the 
Book,' in mw 2 (1916), 164-70; E. Tyan, Histoire de 
V organisation judiciaire en pays d'Islam, vol. i, Paris 
1938; rev. ed., Leiden i960 2 . 

Sebastian Giinther 

Primary: Ibn Ishaq, Sira, ed. Saqqa et al.; Ibn 
Ishaq-Guillaume; QurtubT, Jami', Cairo 1952-67; 
Tabarl, Tafsir, 12 vols., Beirut 1992. 
Secondary: Arberry; J. Augapfel, Das kitab im 
Quran, in WZKM2Q (1915), 384-92; Bell; id., 
Origin of Islam in its Christian environment, London 
1926; H. Berg, Tabari's exegesis of the qur'anic 
term al-Kitab, in Journal of the American Academy oj 
Religion 63 (1995), 761-74; F. Buhl, 'Die Schrift' 
und was damit zusammenhangt im Qur 5 an, in 
C. Adler and A. Ember (eds.), Oriental studies 
dedicated to Paul Haupt as director of the Oriental 
Seminary of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore 
1926, 364-73; id., Das Leben Muhammeds, trans. 
H.H. Schaecler, Leipzig I930;J. Fuck, Das 
Problem des Wissens im Qur'an, in S. Giinther 
(ed.), Vortrage uber den Islam. Aus dem Nachlafi hrsg 
und um einen Anmerkungsteil ergdnzt von S. Giinther, 
Halle (Saale) 1999, 1-31; S. Giinther, Muham- 
mad, the illiterate Prophet. An Islamic creed in 
the Quran and qur'anic exegesis, in Journal of 
qur'anic studies 4 (2002), 1-26; E. Haeuptner, 
Koranische Hinweise auf die materielle Kultur der alien 
Arabei; Ph.D. diss., Tubingen ig66;J. Horovitz, 
Jewish proper names and derivatives in the Koran, Ohio 
1925, repr. Hildesheim 1964; Jeffery, Materials; 
id., The Qur'dn as scripture, New York 1952; A.Th. 
Khoury, Der Koran. Arabisch-Deutsch Ubersetzung und 
wis s ens chaftlicher Kommentar, Giitersloh 1991 f, vol. 
iii; D. Kiinstlinger, 'Kitab' und 'ahlu 1-Kitab' im 
Kuran, in R04 (1926), 238-47; id., Die Namen 
der 'Gottes-Schriften' im Qur'an, in ro 13 (1937), 
72-84; M. Lecker, Zayd b. Thabit, 'a Jew with 
two sidelocks.' Judaism and literacy in pre- 
Islamic Medina (Yathrib), in jjves §6 (1997), 
259-73; Noldeke, gq, esp. i, 14, 159-60; id., 
Review of J. Wellhausen, Skizz^n und Vorarbeiten. 
Drittes Heft Reste arabischen Heidenthumes, in 
zdmg 41 (1887), 707-26; Paret, Kommentar; id., 
Koran: id., Mohammed und der Koran. Geschichte und 

Literary Structures of the Qiir'an 

Rhetorical, grammatical and linguistic 
devices utilized in the conveyance of 
meaning. The message of the Qiir'an is 
couched in various literary structures, 
which are widely considered to be the most 
perfect example of the Arabic language 
(q.v.; see also language and style of the 
qjjr'an). Arabic grammars were written 
based upon the qur'anic language (see 
grammar and the qur'an), and, by the 
general consensus of Muslim rhetoricians, 
the qur'anic idiom is considered to be sub- 
lime. This article is concerned with these 
literary structures and how they produce 
meaning in the Qur'an in an effective way. 
Muslim doctrine holds that the Qur'an is 
inimitable, its inimitability (q.v.) lying not 
only in its matchless literary style (see form 


in its rehgious content. As such, the Qur'an 
is considered the avowed miracle (see 
miracles) of the prophet Muhammad, 
testifying to the truth (q.v.) of his prophet- 
hood and the enduring veracity of his mes- 
sage (see prophets and prophethood; 
messenger). These doctrinal consider- 
ations frame classical Muslim consider- 
ations of the literary structures of the 
Qiir'an and their manner of generating 
religious meaning. It should be emphasized 
that these literary structures are not 

r 93 


deemed mere otiose embellishments of the 
text of the Quran but are rather the fac- 
tors that produce its powerful effect in the 
specific forms presented. If the form of a 
qur'anic text is changed in any way, how- 
ever small or seemingly innocent, the 
meaning is modified, often significantly. 
Take, for example, "iyydka na'budu" (q_ 1:5). 
By syntactically placing the pronominal 
object (iyyaka) before the verb (na'budu), 
rather than after it (as the pronominal 
suffix -ka), the meaning of the qur'anic 
verse is specified to be "only you do we 
worship." This is significantly different 
from "we worship you" (na 'buduka), which 
declares worship of God but does not 
exclude the possibility of worshiping other 
deities as well (see polytheism and 
atheism). Syntax, therefore, is an impor- 
tant element of the literary structures of 
the Qtir'an, for it helps to determine the 
specific meaning of the text. 

A further example will highlight another 
aspect of the quality of qur'anic literary 
structures: "wa-lakumji l-qisasi hayatun" 
(q_ 2:179), which means "and in retaliation 
(q.v.), there is life for you." Muslim rhetori- 
cians have compared this qur'anic verse 
with the pre-Islamic Arabian proverb, 
"al-qatlu anja lil-qatli, " which means "killing 
is more likely to preclude killing" (see 

murder; blood money). Although the two 
statements are not exactly congruent, they 
both advocate the application of the death 
penalty in cases of murder, maintaining 
that such a punishment results in a safer 
society, as it both deters others and re- 
moves the murderer from the community 
(see community and society in the 
qjur'an; chastisement and punishment). 
Attention has been drawn to the sound of 
the words in these two statements; the 
phonemes of the pre-Islamic proverb are 
difficult to pronounce in succession, 

alternating — as they do — between the 
sounds of a and q at opposite ends of the 
laryngeal uttering process, interposed 
between the repetitive dental cluster tl, 
whereas the phonemes of the qur'anic 
verse, in contrast, flow easily on one's 
tongue. Phonology, therefore, is another 
important element in literary structures, 
for it governs and ensures the acoustic and 
phonic fluidity of the qur'anic text, helping 
it to achieve good reception and deliver its 
meaning effectively (see recitation of 
the qjur'an). 

As these examples demonstrate, the Ara- 
bic language forms the basis for the literary 
structures of the Quran, and is the vehicle 
through which the intended meaning has 
been conveyed. The Qur'an was revealed 
to the prophet Muhammad in Arabic, as 
the text itself reiterates (e.g. Q 12:2; 20:113; 
39:28; 41:3; 42:7; 43:3) and it is in Arabic 
that his contemporaries first heard the 
message, a message that affected both their 
hearts (see heart) and minds (see intel- 
lect). It is in Arabic that later generations 
of Muslim believers of all ethnic and lin- 
guistic backgrounds have continued to 
hear and recite the qur'anic text, the text 
from which they have drawn guidance to 
shape their lives. To them a translation of 
the Qur'an into any other language is not 
really the Qur'an (lit. "recitation"; see 
orality; orality and writing in 
Arabia), irrespective of its accuracy and 
faithfulness to the Arabic original. Further- 
more, like other languages, Arabic has its 
own specific way of conveying meaning, 
which has been connected with particular 
cultural contexts; the Qur'an's use of this 
idiom is notably unique and, for believers, 
miraculous. Muslims therefore celebrate 
this unique and inimitable Qur'an, and 
aspire to retain the authentic association 
of language, culture and faith (q.v.) so 
central to their lives. 


I( J4 

The qur'anic text in the prophet Muhammad's 

According to tradition, the Qur'an was 
revealed piecemeal to the prophet 
Muhammad in about twenty-three years 
(between 610 and 632 G.E.). It was orally 
received and memorized (see memory), 
and some qur'anic passages were probably 
written down by his literate Companions 
(see companions OF THE prophet) on flat 
stones, shoulder blades, palm leaves, parch- 
ment and other materials (see codices 
of the qjjr'an; literacy). Although 
qur'anic passages of different lengths were 
revealed intermittently — frequently with 
specific reference or in response to particu- 
lar circumstances and events — and were 
thus not necessarily intended or taken as 
continuing where the previously revealed 
text had left off (see occasions of 
revelation; chronology and the 
qur'an), it was the prophet Muhammad 
who — according to tradition — in- 
structed the early believers as to the proper 
placement of these passages in the larger 
(and growing) oral text that would become 
the holy scripture of Islam. By the end of 
Muhammad's life in 10/632, the Qur'an 
had 114 suras ranging from the short- 
est — with three verses (q_ 103, 108, and 
no) — to the longest, with 286 verses (q_ 2). 
Muslim tradition says that Muhammad 
designated the position of every verse but 
one (p_ 4:176), since that verse was revealed 
just before his death. His Companions 
chose the place for this verse based upon 
its meaning, context, and style (see Draz, 
Introduction, 15, n. 3). 

The qur'anic text after the prophet Muhammad's 

When the oral Qur'an was later "col- 
lected" by the Prophet's Companions in 
"book" form in ca. 28/650, the 114 suras 
were arranged largely according to size, 
and not according to the chronological or- 

der of revelation; the longer suras were 
placed first and the shorter ones followed 
in a generally descending order of length. 
The notable exception to this arrangement 
is Q_ 1, Surat al-Fatiha ("The Opening"), 
which, although it has only seven verses, 
was placed at the beginning of the qur'anic 
codex. According to Muslim tradition, 
copies of the Qur'an have normally been 
disseminated in this form since its initial 
collection (one revisionist theory of the col- 
lection and compilation of the Qur'an is 
provided by John Wansbrough, who, in his 
Qur'anic studies, argues that the Qur'an did 
not attain its current form until about the 
end of the second/eighth and beginning of 
the third/ninth century; see collection 
of the qjjr'an; mushaf). 

One should keep in mind the originally 
oral character of the Qur'an and the 
amount of time that elapsed before each of 
its suras, especially the longer ones, were 
revealed in their entirety. Hence, it is nec- 
essary to look at the literary structures of 
the suras (q.v.) to discover how each forms 
a unit, canonically constituting one chap- 
ter. Some pre-modern Muslim exegetes 
(see exegesis of the qjur'an: classical 
and medieval) examined these structures, 
and offered theories of nagm (lit. "order") 
highlighting the verbal organization of the 
sura's wording with regard to its syntax 
and rhetorical figures of speech (see 
rhetoric of the qjur'an); others offered 
theories of munasaba or tanasub (lit. "rela- 
tionship") about the linear relatedness of 
verses (q.v.) within the sura, or even of one 
sura and the next. But the treatment of the 
sura as a unit was not really broached by 
Muslim scholars until the twentieth cen- 
tury, notably by Amln Ahsan Islahl 
(1906-97) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66). 

The sura as a unit 
In his Tadabbur-i Qur'an (1967-80), Amln 
Ahsan Islahl concentrates on the semantic 

I( J5 


and thematic content of the sura as a 
coherent unit. He finds that, semantically, 
the suras are linked in complementary 
pairs and that the Qur'an contains seven 
groups of suras, each with a block of Mec- 
can suras and a block of Medinan ones, 
which deal, respectively, with theoretical 
and practical aspects of the block's theme. 
Islahi's concept is insightful, if a little too 
schematized, but it does not give literary 
structures their due place in generating 
and conveying the meaning of the qur'anic 
suras in his systematized scheme. 

In his FT gilal al-Qur'dn (1952-9), Sayyid 
Qutb focuses on the coherent unity of each 
sura — mostly with regard to its semantic 
and thematic qualities — but he does iden- 
tify structural characteristics related to its 
diction, syntax, imagery and phonology 
that reflect the intended meaning and 
mood of the sura. He finds that each sura 
has a core or central point, a theme that he 
calls its mihwar (lit. its "axis"), around 
which it revolves. In his view, the sura may 
have one topic (mawdu') tightly bound to its 
theme or it may have more topics so 
bound; the theme may sometimes be dou- 
ble-lined (as in long suras), but each line 
(khatt) of the theme is then strongly bound 
to the other. For example, Sayyid Qutb 
believes that Q_ 2 has a double -lined theme 
whose two lines are strongly bound to- 
gether. The first thematic line revolves 
around the hostile attitude of the Jews (see 
jews and Judaism) to Islam in Medina 
(q.v.) and their friendly relations with the 
Arabian polytheists and hypocrites (see 
hypocrites and hypocrisy). The second 
thematic line revolves around the corre- 
sponding attitude of the Muslims in 
Medina and their growth as a believing 
community prepared to carry the responsi- 
bility of God's call after Jewish rejection. 
Both lines are complementary and tightly 
bound together throughout the sura, which 
eventually ends as it began: by exhorting 

(see exhortations) human beings to 
belief in God (see belief and unbelief), 
his prophets, his scriptures (see book; 
scripture and the q_ur'an) and the 
metaphysical unseen world (see hidden 
and the hidden). From beginning to end, 
the several topics of the sura are related to 
this double -lined theme. 

In all circumstances, Sayyid Qutb be- 
lieves each sura has a special atmosphere 
(jaww) integrating its topic or topics har- 
moniously and a musical rhythm (iqa' 
musiqi) consonant with its topic or topics. 
He maintains that bothjaww and iqa' musiqi 
strengthen the effective delivery of its in- 
tended meaning. The aesthetic effects of 
the Qur'an's literary structures are dis- 
cussed at some length by Sayyid Qutb in 
his books al-Taswir al-fanmji l-Qur'an (1945) 
and Mashahid al-qijidmaji l-Qur'an (1947), 
where he gives a detailed view of the man- 
ner in which the structures generate the 
intended meaning and deliver it with ver- 
bal beauty and psychological power. 

Some Western scholars, on the other 
hand, have criticized the Qur'an because 
they perceived it as lacking in certain liter- 
ary virtues. None other than T Noldeke 
stated "dass der gesunde Sprachsinn der 
Araber sie fast ganz davor beewahrt hat, 
die eigentlichen Selsamkeiten und 
Schwachen der Koransprache nachzuah- 
men" (Zur Sprache, 22; Fr. trans. "Le bon 
sens linguistique des Arabes les a presque 
entierement preserves de l'imitation des 
etrangetes et faiblesses propres a la langue 
du Coran," in id., Remarques critiques, 34). 
Thomas Carlyle (cf. Arberrry, Koran, i, 12), 
no mean admirer of the prophet Muham- 
mad as a hero, thought of the Qur'an as 
"toilsome reading" and considered it to be 
"a wearisome, confused jumble, crude, 
incondite." R.A. Nicholson (cf. Arberry, 
Koran, ii, 9) referred to European readers 
of the Qur'an who held that "it is obscure, 
tiresome, uninteresting; a farrago of 



long-winded narratives and prosaic exhor- 
tations." W. Montgomery Watt (Watt-Bell, 
Introduction, 73) spoke of "disjointedness" as 
"a real characteristic of Qur'anic style." 

Yet Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, 
the first modern British Muslim to make 
an English translation of the Quran 
(which he did not call "The Qur'an," but 
pointedly entitled The meaning of the glorious 
Koran and subtitled "An explanatory trans- 
lation") refers to the Qur'an in his fore- 
word as "that inimitable symphony, the 
very sounds of which move men to tears 
and ecstasy." Another Englishman, Arthur 
J. Arberry, who also translated the Qur'an 
into English, offered his translation as only 
The Koran interpreted and devised "rhythmic 
patterns and sequence-groupings" in it to 
reflect certain aspects of its literary struc- 
tures in Arabic. Although in his introduc- 
tion Arberry admits [Koran, i, 24) that it is 
"a poor copy of the glittering splendour of 
the original," he later says that each "sura 
will now be seen to be a unity within itself, 
and the Koran will be recognized as a sim- 
ple revelation, self-consistent to the highest 
degree" [Koran, ii, 15-6). More recently, the 
works of Angelika Neuwirth have focused 
on the literary merit and integrity of whole 
suras (cf. e.g. Neuwirth, Zur Struktur der 
Yusuf-Sure; see also N. Robinson, Discover- 
ing the Quran). 

The study of the qur'anic sura as a unit 
with coherent unity is still in need of fo- 
cused, philological elaboration in modern 
scholarship. With the possible exception of 
the German school of qur'anic studies, the 
analytical tools and categories for such 
research, as well as the relevant technical 
methods and terminology, need to be 
developed and established, as has been 
achieved — however dissonantly — with 
the study of other scriptures and of other 
literary genres. Such a study will help 
better understand not only the sura and 
its literary structures, but also — ulti- 

mately — the whole Qur'an as a holy 
scripture with a singular message. The 
study of the macrostructure of the Qur'an 
should build on the conclusions of study- 
ing its microstructures as manifested in the 
sura and its individual, componential peri- 
copes (see narratives; for an example of 
the contemporary German scholarship on 
the macro- and microstructures of the 
Qur'an, see the EQ articles by Angelika 
Neuwirth, esp. suras; form and struc- 


The prose of the Qur'an 
As Arabic is the language of the Qur'an, 
its use in a variety of literary forms should 
be closely examined. To be noted first and 
foremost is the fact that the qur'anic text is 
written in prose. It is a very special kind of 
prose, to be sure, and it is unique in many 
ways; but it is definitely prose and not 
verse. Classical Arabic verse has regular 
meter and recurring rhyme as two of its 
basic features, which are partly responsible 
for its symmetry and harmony. These fea- 
tures are clear in the long tradition of the 
Arabic qasida, the ode. The prose of the 
qur'anic text, on the other hand, is not at 
all metrical; furthermore, its rhyme is 
neither regular nor constantly based on an 
identical rhyme-letter as in classical Arabic 
verse. It is often replaced by assonance, 
and, sometimes, completely ignored. 

Muslim scholars have been reluctant to 
call the prose of the qur'anic text saf, 
"rhymed prose" (q.v.), possibly because this 
term is associated with the prose pro- 
nouncements of pagan priests and the 
prose utterances of fortune-tellers (see 
foretelling; divination) or soothsayers 
(q.v.) in pre-Islamic Arabia (see also 
poetry and poets), as well as with the 
prose of later Arabic writings in Islamic 
history characterized by a degree of artifi- 
ciality or mannerism. The term saf, how- 



ever, is not appropriate mainly because not 
all of the qur'anic text is written in rhymed 
prose. Muslim scholars prefer to designate 
the prose of the qur'anic text as one di- 
vided into fawasil, "rhetorical periods" (sin- 
S,n\axjasild). Each period in the text con- 
tains a semantic-grammatical unit forming 
an aya, "a verse," usually ending with 
rhyme or assonance echoing the rhyme or 
assonance of other verses in the proximate 
textual neighborhood. Sometimes, how- 
ever, a rhetorical period ends without such 
rhyme or assonance. 

An aya may be short and can consist of as 
few as one word (e.g. o 69:1; 101:1) or even 
a couple of "mysterious letters" (q.v.) at the 
beginning of certain suras (e.g. p_ 20:1; 
36:1). It may also be quite long and consist 
of as many as fifty words or more. When 
the ayat are short, the effect of the rhymes 
or assonances in the text is powerful 
because, given their proximity to one 
another, they continue to ring in the imme- 
diate memory of the reader or listener and 
instill the meaning with persistence. When, 
however, the ayat are long, the effect of the 
rhymes or assonances as such is less power- 
ful on account of the distance between one 
and the next, thus possibly allowing for 
them to fade in the immediate memory; in 
these instances, however, their effect is usu- 
ally reinforced through their inclusion 
within a brief rhyming phrase or clause 
tagged to the end of the aya as a coda, a 
device which can serve to remind the 
reader or listener of the preceding state- 
ment, pressing it home, and clinching the 
argument of the aya. 

A few examples will suffice to demon- 
strate the nature of rhyme or assonance 
in both the short and long verses of the 
Qur'an. Some examples of the short verses 
are as follows: I. After the basmala (q.v.), 
Q 112 (in full) reads: (1) qulhuwa llahu ahad 
(2) Allahu l-samad (3) lamyalid wa-lam yulad 
(4) wa-lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad. Here the 

rhyme is -ad. To be noted is the fact that 
the final inflection of the rhyme-word is 
disregarded lest the rhyme be broken; 
otherwise, the final words would not rhyme 
and would read, respectively: ahadun, 
l-samadu, yulad, and ahadun. 2. Verses g-n of 
o 93 read: (g)fa-amma l-yatlma fa-la taqhar 
(10) wa-ammd l-sa'ilafa-ld tanhar (11) wa- 
amma bi-ni'mati rabbika fa-haddith. Here the 
rhyme of verses 9 and 10 is -ar but it is 
ignored in verse 11. Examples of long 
verses are as follows: 1. o 2:143 has forty- 
five words, ending with the coda inna llaha 
bi-l-ndsi la-ra'ufun rahim, the rhyme of which 
is -mi, echoing the majority of the other 
rhymes in the sura, which consist of -mi 
and of the assonantal -in and -un. There 
are, however, verses in this sura that end in 
-ir (o_ 2:148) or -ab (q_ 2:165-6), or -ar 
(q_ 2:167), as well as other consonantal end- 
ings, in which the rhyme or assonance of 
the majority of the verses of the sura is ig- 
nored. 2. In the same sura, verse Q_ 2:255 
has fifty words and ends with the coda wa- 
huwa l-'aliyyu l-'azym. The verse that follows, 
Q_ 2:256, which consists of twenty-four 
words, ends with the coda wa-llahu samiun 
'aim. Both verses rhyme in -im, echoing 
most of the other rhymes and assonances 
in the sura, and the coda in each reinforces 
and clinches the argument of the aya. 

From the above, it can be observed that 
the verses of the qur'anic text are of vari- 
ous lengths. In the longer suras, the verses 
are usually long and in the shorter suras 
they are usually short, but this is not an 
invariant rule. Even within a single sura, 
the verses vary in length. Although they 
tend to be of a fairly similar length, they 
are not necessarily equal in length nor are 
they composed of parallel and correspond- 
ing syllables, as in metrical composition 
with prosodic feet, to produce the exact 
symmetry of versification. Nonetheless, the 
prose of the qur'anic text has a certain 
rhythm to it, which varies from sura to sura 


and even within one sura, particularly if it 
is a long one. This rhythm is not that of a 
fixed meter but that of a unique composi- 
tion that allows the topic at hand to qualify 
it and modify its cadences, using verses of 
varying lengths, mostly with rhymes or 
assonances and sometimes without. The 
topic of the sura may gradually unfold dif- 
ferent aspects of its major theme, and the 
verses of the sura may accordingly have a 
different rhyme-letter for each aspect, 
especially in suras of some length; but, 
again, this is not an invariant rule. 

In sum, the prose of the Qur'an is not 
totally rhymed prose, nor is it totally 
unrhymed free prose. It is a unique blend 
of both, with an important contribution by 
assonance, couched in a variety of short 
and long verses dispensed in suras of vari- 
ous lengths. The different patterns of 
rhymes, assonances and free endings in the 
verses, as well as the different lengths and 
rhythms of these verses and the varying 
lengths of the suras themselves, are all lit- 
erary structures related to the meaning 
offered. In the final analysis, they comprise 
an essential element of the effective deliv- 
ery of the total message of the Quran. 

From the Arabic text of the Qur'an, it is 
obvious that sound plays a major role in 
the effect its words produce, an effect that 
a translation of the Qur'an into other lan- 
guages fails to preserve, despite the best 
efforts of the translators. Arthur J. Arberry 
made a genuine effort in his English trans- 
lation of the Qur'an "to devise rhythmic 
patterns and sequence-groupings in corre- 
spondence with what the Arabic presents." 
Despite his commendable effort, he admits 
that, in the end, his interpretation is a poor 
echo of the original, as noted above. 
The sound of Arabic words in the 
Qur'an is an important element of literary 
structure in producing a rhetorical 

medium that delivers the meaning effec- 
tively. This element functions at different 
levels. At the level of vocabulary, there is 
what rhetoricians would come to describe 
as the "eloquence of the single word" 
(fasahat al-mufrad): the individual words in 
the Qur'an consist of letters that flow 
harmoniously without tongue-twisting dif- 
ficulties or ear-jarring sounds, each word 
agreeing with common usage and the mor- 
phological rules of Arabic. These later 
rhetoricians also noted the "eloquence of 
composition" (fasahat al-murakkab) with 
regards to the wording of individual 
verses: the order of words is such that their 
phonemes flow with ease from one word to 
the next in pronunciation and are aurally 
perceived with a pleasant sensation. Mean- 
while, the construction follows the rules of 
correct syntax, allowing variations that 
cater to the rhetorical intention and effec- 
tiveness of semantic delivery. At the level 
of passages consisting of shorter or longer 
sequences within a sura, the verses of vary- 
ing lengths are threaded together by 
rhymes and assonances, their rhythms 
varying according to their topics and mod- 
ulated according to their moods in order to 
produce maximum effect. At the level of 
the whole Qur'an, which consists of short, 
middle-sized and long suras, the total mes- 
sage leaves a phonological and semantic 
impression that is considered absolutely 
sublime and that has often been said to go 
beyond the exquisite harmony of music; 
this is "that inimitable symphony" accord- 
ing to Marmaduke Pickthall. Muslim rhet- 
oricians have called this unique composi- 
tion of the Qur'an nagm al-Qur'an (lit. "the 
order of the Qur'an"), a reference to the 
beautiful fusion of its wording and mean- 
ing in accordance with principles of gram- 
mar, rhetoric, and phonology, briefly out- 
lined above. Considering the Qur'an's 
divine provenance to be a matter of faith 
and deeming its content transcendent and 



its composition unique, Muslim theolo- 
gians have considered it to be the prophet 
Muhammad's miracle and declared it to be 
beyond human ability to imitate. By the 
early part of the third/ninth century, they 
developed the doctrine of i'j&Z al-Qur'an, 
literally, the Qur'an's incapacitation (of 
humans and jinn [q.v.]), but technically 
denoting the miraculously inimitable char- 
acter of the Quran. According to the 
theologians, the doctrine that human 
beings and jinn are incapable of imitating 
the Qur'an has been proven by their con- 
tinuing inability to meet its clear challenge 
to them to do so (o_ 10:38; 11:13; 17:88; see 
Boullata, Rhetorical interpretation, 


As in music, repetition plays an essential 
role in any literary text of poetic effective- 
ness. In the Qur'an, it takes the form of 
repeated rhythms, rhymes, assonances, 
refrains, patterns of structure and varia- 
tions on the same theme. It is meant to 
inculcate the qur'anic message with power 
while employing a sublime language that 
seizes the heart and mind — without being 
enthralling or entrancing in the pejorative, 
incantatory sense of enslaving comprehen- 
sion, spiritual absorption, and meaningful 

Transtextuality allows several kinds of 
repetition, whereby a usage with strong 
associations of meaning in one part of the 
Qur'an is encountered in another part or 
in other parts of it with echoes of the ear- 
lier usage, either at the intratextual level of 
the same sura or at the intertextual level of 
all the suras. Two obvious examples of 
refrains may be used to demonstrate this 
repetition at the intratextual level. The 
refrains are repeated several times, with a 
stronger effect each time as the text builds 
to a climax. The first example is o_ 55, a 
sura consisting of seventy-eight short 

verses, of which thirty are a refrain asking 
the rhetorical question: "Which then of 
the favors (see grace; blessing) of your 
lord (q.v.) will you two deny?" The first 
instance of this refrain occurs after verse 
12, and appears thereafter following every 
verse or two; after verse 44, the refrain 
alternates with every verse until the end of 
the sura. The sura enumerates the bounties 
of God to the two kinds of creatures: 
human beings and jinn (see creation). It 
mentions God's creation of humankind, 
the jinn, the orderly universe and the world 
(see cosmology) with its wonders, bless- 
ings, gifts, bounties, and benefits that are 
granted to all out of his mercy (q.v.). One 
of these blessings is God's teaching of the 
Qur'an. On the day of judgment (see LAST 
judgment), all creatures will be rewarded 
or punished according to their deeds (see 
good deeds; evil deeds; record of 
human actions). The sura describes the 
physical features of the reward and punish- 
ment (q.v.), leaving no excuse for anyone to 
deny the prior favors of the lord, which are 
incrementally stressed throughout the sura, 
culminating in the climax, with the thirty 
repetitions of the rhetorical question. 

The other example of refrains recurring 
throughout a single sura is found in Q_ 77, 
which consists of fifty short verses, ten of 
which are a refrain in the form of a threat: 
"Woe on that day to those who deny" (see 
lie; gratitude and ingratitude). The 
day in question isjiawm al-fasl, "the day of 
decision," on which the physical features of 
the world will collapse and all creatures 
will be brought before God for judgment 
(see apocalypse). The sura begins with a 
succession of enigmatic oaths (q.v.) assur- 
ing everyone that what has been promised 
will indeed occur. Then it proceeds to a 
frightening description of the universe as it 
collapses. Creatures are reminded that 
God had created them and the world's 
benefits for them. They are reminded that 


God had destroyed the evil-doers of yore 
(see generations) and will punish all sin- 
ners (see SIN, MAJOR AND minor), whose 
tricks will not avail against them nor pro- 
tect them from the blazing flames (see 
fire; hell and hellfire). Meanwhile, the 
righteous will dwell amid shades and foun- 
tains, eating fruits and consuming and 
drinking what they desire, in just reward 
for their pious lives (see garden; para- 
dise; food and drink; piety). God's 
favors and his promised punishment 
throughout the sura are punctuated by the 
repeated threat of woe to those who, on 
that day of decision, deny the truth of 
God's power, but will not be permitted to 
speak and excuse themselves. The repeated 
threats serve to highlight the fearful pun- 
ishment and, in contrast, the blissful joy of 
reward (see joy and misery; hope). 

Repetitions in the form of refrains like 
these two examples do not occur elsewhere 
in the qur'anic text. There are, however, 
other kinds of repetition in the form of 
words or turns of phrase that are too many 
to enumerate, which contribute to that spe- 
cific quality of the qur'anic style, giving it a 
particular tone. That which was called 
coda above, namely a maxim that comes at 
the end of a verse clinching its purport, is 
an example of such a repetition, a refrain 
that occurs in the Qur'an at both the intra- 
textual and the intertextual levels. An 
example of such a coda is wa-huwa I- 'aztZU 
l-hakim, "And he is the mighty, the wise" 
(o_ 29:42). This also occurs without the 
definite article but usually with Allah 
("God") instead of the pronoun huwa 
("he"), as in o_ 5:38: wa-llahu 'azizun hakim, 
"And God is mighty, wise." This coda 
occurs about forty times in the Qur'an. 
Variations — with a different attribute of 
God (see god and his attributes) — also 
occur, such as Q_ 44:42: innahu huwa l-'azizu 
l-rahim, "Verily, he is the mighty, the merci- 
ful," or Q_ 67:2: wa-huwa l-'azizu l-ghajur, 

"And he is the mighty, the forgiving" (see 
forgiveness). Among the many other 
codas is the one found in o_ 2:20: inna llaha 
'aid kulli shay 'in qadlr, "Verily, God is power- 
ful over everything," which also occurs 
without inna ("verily") and begins with wa 
("and"), as in Q_ 2:284: wa-llahu 'aid kulli 
shay 'in qadir, "And God is powerful over 
everything." The pronoun huwa or hu may 
also be substituted for Allah, as in Q_ 30:50 
and o_ 41:39, respectively. This coda occurs 
about thirty times in the Qur'an. 

Another form of repetition in the Qur'an 
is the telling of punishment stories (q.v.), in 
each of which a messenger is sent by God 
to a certain people to teach them, to turn 
them away from their evil deeds and to 
warn (see Warner) them against God's 
punishment if they do not heed. When 
they persist in their evil ways, God's pun- 
ishment is visited upon them in a variety of 
terrible ways. Such is the story of the mes- 
senger Hud (q.v.) sent to the Arabian pre- 
Islamic group of people called Ad (q.v.). 
Likewise, it is the story of the messenger 
Salih (q.v.) sent to a certain people of 
ancient Arabia called Thamud (q.v.). Some 
of the stories have biblical equivalents, 
such as the story of the messenger Shifayb 
(q.v.) sent to the people of Midian (q.v.) or 
the story of Noah (q.v.) and his people or 
of Lot (q.v.) and his people or some aspects 
of the story of the prophet Moses (q.v.) 
and Pharaoh (q.v). o_ 26 contains a group 
of these punishment stories, some of which 
are repeated with variations in o 54, o 7, 
Q_ 11, Q_ 51, and elsewhere. Not only is the 
pattern of events in these stories generally 
parallel, but the wording is often similar, 
sometimes even identical in certain parts of 
the story (see Welch, Formulaic features). 
The oral nature of the original qur'anic 
message is very evident in these stories, 
repeated in a variety of similar ways to suit 
different audiences in the Prophet's life- 
time. Their purpose, then and later, is to 


warn and threaten unbelievers, to convince 
them of the power of God and the cer- 
tainty of his punishment, and to reassure 
those who believe in God and accept 
Muhammad's message that he is truly 
God's messenger sent to the world as a 
warner and a bearer of good tidings (see 
good news) about a new religion and a 
new societal order. The rhetoric of the- 
matic and verbal repetition in the stories 
inculcates this purpose strongly and helps 
instill the meaning effectively. 

Imagery and figurative language 
Metaphors (see metaphor) and other fig- 
ures of speech abound in the Qur'an. As in 
the scriptures of other world religions and 
in the literatures of all nations, figurative 
language is used to enhance the effect of 
what is said by making it beautiful, impres- 
sive, aesthetically striking, and semantically 
powerful. It persuades through literary 
devices that stir the imagination and 
appeal directly to the senses. On this 
count, the Qur'an often offers dramatic 
uses of figurative language in its literary 
structures, as well as original and daring 
insights of unforgettable aesthetic and 
semantic effect. 

There is much in the Qur'an that contin- 
ues to adhere to the literal usage of the 
Arabic language, that is, the use of words 
for what they have commonly been used to 
designate. Yet, as in other languages, there 
are some words whose figurative usage has 
become so common as to be accepted as 
normal literal usage. English words like leg, 
neck, and eye, which originally refer to 
parts of humans or animals, are no longer 
considered metaphorical when used in 
such expressions as "the leg of a table," 
"the neck of a bottle" and "the eye of a 
needle." In a similar manner, the Arabic 
word shana, which originally refers to a 
path leading to water sought for drinking, 
has come to refer metaphorically to reli- 

gious law, as attested in Q_ 45:18 (see LAW 
AND THE q_ur'an). This religious law 
is — if obeyed — the path leading to the 
quenching of spiritual thirst and the pres- 
ervation of societal health and well-being, 
hence the connection of shana referring to 
Islamic law. Another similar qur'anic use is 
the Arabic wordfatra, which originally 
meant tepidity, but has been commonly 
used to mean interval of time between 
happenings; Q_ 5:19 reads: qadja'akum 
rasuluna yubayyinu lakum 'alafatratin min al- 
rusuli, "Our messenger has come to you to 
make things clear to you after an interval 
between the messengers." Herefatra may 
also effectively be read — as originally 
intended in Arabic — to mean tepidity. 
The qur'anic statement can then be under- 
stood as saying: "Our messenger has come 
to you to make things clear to you after the 
tepidity of [people's faith in earlier] mes- 
sengers" (for further discussion, see Abu- 
Deeb, Studies in the majaz). Aside from 
these matters, however, the Qur'an has an 
amazing abundance of fresh and vivid 
images and figures of speech in its literary 
structures, an abundance that has made a 
perceptive modern literary critic and exe- 
gete like Sayyid Qutb argue that what he 
calls taswir fanm, "artistic imagery," is in- 
deed the preferred style of the Qur'an (see 
Boullata, Sayyid Qutb's literary apprecia- 
tion). Classical rhetoricians and exegetes of 
the Qur'an writing in Arabic, like al- 
Jurjani (d. 471/1078) and al-Zamakhshari 
(d. 538/1144), among others, have long 
drawn particular attention to this inherent 
quality of imagery in the qur'anic style. 

The primary instance to be noted is the 
fact that the Qur'an speaks of God in 
anthropomorphic language (see anthro- 
pomorphism). Although it says of God 
laysa ka-mithlihi shay'un (q_ 42:11), "Nothing 
is like unto him," it speaks of the "hand of 
God" (e.g. Q_ 3:73; 5:64; 48:10) and some- 
times speaks of "his hand" (e.g. Q_ 23:88; 


36:83; see hand[s]). Muslim theologians 
have long discussed such wording and 
often differ — each according to his theo- 
logical school — about the explanation. 
But it appears evident that, linguistically, 
there is figurative speech here, the word 
hand metonymically referring to God's 
power (see power and impotence). The 
same applies to the "eye of God," as in 
li-tusna'a 'aid 'ayni{q_ 20:39), i.e. "that you 
[Moses] may be formed before my eye," 
metonymically meaning under God's pro- 
tection and according to his will (see eyes). 
In the same manner, the Qur'an ascribes 
attributes to God, such as mercy (q.v), 
knowledge (see knowledge and learn- 
ing), hearing (see hearing and deafness), 
sight (see vision and blindness; seeing 
and hearing), speech (q.v.), love (see love 
and affection), justice (see justice and 
injustice), power, generosity (q.v.), forgive- 
ness, oneness, wisdom (q.v.), glory (q.v.), 
greatness and so on. God is also said to 
have sat on the throne [thumma stawa 'alii 
l-'arsh, ft 7:54; 10:3; 13:2; 25:59; 32:4; 57:4 
and elsewhere), with the word "throne" 
taken to be a symbol (see symbolic 
imagery') of his omnipotence and majesty 
(see throne of god). 

Likewise, the afterlife (see eschatology) 
is described in the Qur'an in terms of 
physical pleasure in paradise and physical 
pain in hell, denoting, respectively, reward 
and punishment for deeds done on earth 
(q.v.) in this life, and fulfilling God's prom- 
ise of reward and his threat of punishment 
elaborated in the Qur'an. The material 
joys of paradise are concurrent with the 
spiritual satisfaction of being near God, 
experiencing eternal peace and bliss, and 
delighting in the beatitude of salvation 
(q.v.). The material sufferings of hell are 
concurrent with the spiritual affliction of 
being exiled from God's presence, the frus- 
trating experience of eternal self-blame 
and regret, and the permanent agony of 

being condemned to the misery of damna- 
tion. Jewish and Christian literature have 
parallel details of the afterlife, but the 
qur'anic image is, on the whole, sui generis. 
This image can be culled from different, 
scattered texts of various lengths in the 
Qur'an, most of them found in the Mec- 
can suras. Each text concentrates on spe- 
cific scenes from paradise or hell, or from 
both, usually presented in a contrastive 
way. Each text, with its different details, 
adds to the total picture of the afterlife. In 
his Mashahid al-qiydmaji l-Qur'dn, Sayyid 
Qutb surveys 150 scenes taken from eighty 
suras of the Qur'an, sixty-three of them 
from the Meccan period and seventeen 
from the Medinan period. 

Perhaps even more graphic is the 
qur'anic image of the last day, the time 
when history comes to a climax: the 
universe is dismantled, the dead are resur- 
rected (see death and the dead; resur- 
rection), the last judgment occurs, and 
an eternity (q.v.) in paradise or hell begins 
for those consigned to either according to 
their deeds. What happens on this last day 
is described in ominous words such as in 
ft 82:1-5: "(1) When heaven is cleft asunder, 
(2) When the stars (al-kawdkib, see planets 
and stars) are dispersed, (3) When the 
seas are burst, (4) And when the tombs are 
laid open, (5) Each soul shall then know its 
former and latter deeds." Or, ft 81:1-14, 
"(1) When the sun is rolled up, (2) When 
the stars (al-nujum) are darkened, (3) When 
the mountains are made to move, 
(4) When the ten-month pregnant she- 
camels are abandoned (see camel), (5) 
When the wild beasts are herded together, 

(6) When the seas are made to seethe, 

(7) When the souls are united, (8) When the 
female infant buried alive (see children; 
infanticide) is asked, (g) For what sin she 
was killed, (10) When the scrolls (q.v.) are 
spread out, (11) When heaven is stripped 
off, (12) When hell is set ablaze, (13) And 



when paradise is brought near, (14) Each 
soul shall then know what it has pro- 
duced." Of grammatical note in these 
qur'anic passages is the fact that the main 
verbs are used in the passive voice and 
without mention of the specific doer of the 
action, or that they occur in the seventh or 
eighth morphological verbal form, forms 
which usually denote passivity. This struc- 
ture increases the perception of the passiv- 
ity of the universe at the end of time as it 
obeys an omnipotent God who does not 
even need to be mentioned as the doer 
because he is known to be the only one 
with commensurate power and authority 
to act at that cosmic scale. 

There are several other qur'anic passages 
with such ominous, eschatological and cat- 
aclysmic scenes foreshadowing humans 
being brought to account on the last day, 
the day of resurrection and the day of 
judgment. The event is heralded by a terri- 
ble shout [sayha, o_ 36:53), a thunderclap 
(sakhkha, Q_ 80:33), one blast of a trumpet 
(o_ 69:13: nufikhafi l-suri nafkhatun wahidd) or 
two blasts (o 39:68: nufikhafi l-suri [...] 
thumma nufikhajihi ukhrd), and other portents 
(as mentioned above). The Qur'an often 
gives this day a special, alarming attribute 
such as al-haqqa (o 69:1) or al-qari'a (o_ 101:1) 
oryawm al-fasl (o_ 77:13). In order to mag- 
nify the unknown and unexpected dread of 
the day, it immediately follows this attri- 
bute with a rhetorical question or double 
question, asked in awe-inspiring tones, as 
in o_ 69:2-3, "What is al-haqqa? And what 
shall make you know what al-haqqa is?" or 
Q_ 101:2-3, "What is al-qari'a? And what 
shall make you know what al-qari'a is?" or 
Q_ 77:14, "And what shall make you know 
what yawniu l-faslis?" In a similar way, the 
Qur'an gives hell other names, such as 
saqar (o_ 74:26) or al-hutama (p_ 104:4) and 
follows that name with a rhetorical ques- 
tion, asking as in Q 74:27, "And what shall 
make you know what saqar is?"; and 

o 104:5, "And what shall make you know 
what al-hutama is?" A menacing descrip- 
tion is then provided, with terrifying 

Among the other qur'anic names of hell 
are al-jahim ("the hot place"), al-sa'ir ("the 
blaze"), la^ci ("flame"), and al-nar ("the 
fire"). These very names evoke the physical 
torment of the damned by fire and burn- 
ing, hence the qur'anic image of hell's 
inmates asking those in paradise for water 
but being denied it (p_ 7:50). To drink, they 
are given boiling water like molten lead 
(ka-l-muhli), scalding their faces (o_ 18:29), 
or they are given festering liquid pus (ma'in 
sadidin) which they can hardly swallow 
(q_ 14:16-7). They are given to eat from the 
Zaqqum tree, whose bitter fruits are like 
heads of devils (o_ 37:62-5; see agricul- 
ture and vegetation). They burn in hell 
but do not die or live, and they are not 
consumed; whenever their skins are seared, 
they are given fresh skins so that they may 
continue to be tormented (o_ 4:56). Their 
torment reaches to their very souls and 
they wish they could ransom themselves 
with all their earthly possessions and they 
feel remorse within them on seeing their 
punishment (q_ 10:54; see repentance and 
penance). They bite their hands in regret 
and wish they had chosen the messenger's 
way (o_ 25:27). They wish they could return 
to the world and be believers (p_ 26:102), 
and they cry for help to the lord to be let 
out in order to do righteous deeds, but they 
will not be helped, for they had been fore- 
warned (g_ 35:37). 

In contrast, the eternal reward of the 
good and just people is a place of physical 
pleasure and spiritual bliss; it is janndt al- 
na'Tm ("the gardens of delight") or janndt 
al-firdaws ("the gardens of paradise") or 
simply al-janna ("the garden"). Through it, 
rivers flow (q_ 5:119), rivers of unpolluted 
water, rivers of milk (q.v.) unchanging in 
flavor, rivers of delicious wine (q.v), and 



rivers of clear honey (q.v.; Q 47:15). The 
inmates recline with their spouses on 
couches in pleasant shades, enjoying fruits 
and whatever they call for (o 36:56-57). 
They are adorned with bracelets of gold 
(q.v.) and wear green garments of silk (q.v.) 
and brocade (o 18:31). They are served by 
immortal youths carrying goblets, ewers, 
and cups filled from a pure spring (see 
springs and fountains); and they do not 
have headaches by drinking therefrom, nor 
are they intoxicated (see intoxicants). 
They eat fruits and the flesh of fowls as 
they desire. They have fair wide-eyed 
maids who are like well-preserved pearls 
(see houris). No vain or sinful talk do they 
hear, but rather greetings of peace 
(q, 56:17-26; see gossip). They experience 
no fear (q.v.) or sorrow (p_ 7:49) and they 
are happy forever (o_ 11:108). Their faces 
are radiant, looking toward their lord 
(q_ 75:22-3); for they are the muqarrabun, 
"those brought near" (p_ 56:11), in the gar- 
dens of delight. 

Although these contrasting images can be 
filled out with further details from other 
qur'anic passages on the afterlife, they suf- 
fice here to give an idea of the impressive 
imagery of the Qur'an. They demonstrate 
some of the most striking aspects of the 
imaginative power of the Arabic language 
to paint large scenes. The literary struc- 
tures of the Qur'an, however, also use this 
imaginative power to paint small scenes. 
This usage is found in many of the 
Qur'an's similes (q.v), metaphors, and 
figures of speech of every kind. A few 
examples should give an idea of the wide- 
ranging qur'anic employment of such figu- 
rative language. The following is one of 
the complex similes: The futility of praying 
to false gods who never respond (see idols 
and images) is likened to a man who 
stretches out his open palms to scoop water 
to his mouth but cannot bring any water to 

it (q_ 13:14). One of the metaphors utilizes 
an oath, swearing by the personified morn- 
ing as it begins: wa-l-subhi id/id tanafjasa 
(q_ 81:18), meaning, "And by morning when 
it breathes." The vivid expressiveness 
comes not from the mere personification of 
morning, but from the ascription of 
breathing to the rise of day, denoting the 
resumption of life and movement after 
night's stillness. Another example of a 
metaphor appears when Zechariah (q.v.; 
Zakariyya) describes his old age. In Q_ 19:4, 
he is reported as saying, "And my head is 
ablaze with hoary hair" (wa-shta'ala l-ra'su 
shayban). The spread of white hair on his 
head with advancing age is portrayed as 
the spread of fire, which may first begin 
with one or two sparks then grows inexora- 
bly into a flame. The image is made more 
striking by its grammatical construction: 
the head itself is the subject of burning, 
not the hoary hair, which is added as an 
accusative of specification. 

In conclusion, it can be said that the 
Qur'an utilizes a wide variety of literary 
devices to convey its message. In its 
original Arabic idiom, the individual 
components of the text — suras and 
dydt — employ phonetic and thematic 
structures that assist the audience's efforts 
to recall the message of the text. Whereas 
scholars of Arabic are largely agreed that 
the Qur'an represents the standard by 
which other literary productions in Arabic 
are measured, believing Muslims maintain 
that the Qur'an is inimitable with respect 
to both content and style (see literature 
and THE chjr'an). From a linguistic stand- 
point, moreover, an understanding of the 
harmony within and between the Qur'an's 
literary structures will be further enhanced 
by continuing study of macro and micro 
units of the text. 

IssaJ. Boullata 




Primary: al- c AskarI, Abu Hilal al-Hasan b. 
! Ahdallah, Kitdb al-Sind'atayn. Al-kitdba wa-l-shi\ 
ed. A.M. al-Bijawi and M.A.F. Ibrahim, Cairo 
1952; BaqillanT, Tjdz; JurjanT, Asrdr; id., Dald'il, 
ed. M. ( Abduh and M. al-ShanqTtl, annotated by 
R. Rida, Cairo 1902; et al., Rasd'il; 
Suyuti, Itqdn; id., Tandsuq; ZamakhsharT, Kashshdj, 
Beirut 1947; Zarkashl, Burhdn, Cairo 1957. 
Secondary: K. Abu-Deeb, al-Jurjani's theory of 
poetic imagery, Warminster 1979; id., Studies in the 
majaz and metaphorical language of the Qur'an. 
Abu ( Ubayda and al-Sharlf al-RadT, in I J. 
Boullata (ed.), Literary structures of religious meaning 
in the Qiir'dn, Richmond 2000, 310-53; A.J. 
Arberry (trans.), The Koran interpreted, London 
1964; A. Baumstark, Jiidischer und christlicher 
Gebetstypus im Koran, in Der Islam 16 (1927), 
229-48; I.J. Boullata, Ijaz, in er, vii, 87-8; id. 
(ed.), Literary structures of religious meaning in the 
Qur'dn, Richmond 2000; id., The rhetorical 
interpretation of the Qur'an. Ijaz and related 
topics, in Rippin, Approaches, 139-57; id., Sayyid 
Qutb's literary appreciation of the Quran, in I.J. 
Boullata (ed.), Literary structures of religious meaning 
in the Qur'dn, Richmond 2000, 356-8; A.M. Draz, 
Introduction to the Qur'dn, London 200i; L. Gardet, 
Djahannam, in El 2 , ii, 381-2; id., Djanna, in El 2 , 
ii, 447-52; R. Geyer, Zur Strophic des Queans, 
in Wiener ^eiischrift fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes 
22 (1908), 265-86; Graham, Beyond; A. A. Islahl, 
Tadabbur-i Qur'dn, 8 vols., Lahore 1967-80; Jeffery, 
Materials; M. Mir, Coherence in the Qur'dn. A study of 
Isldhi's concept o/nazm in Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 
Indianapolis 1986; id., The sura as a unity. A 
twentieth century development in Qur'an 
exegesis, in Hawting and Shareef, Approaches, 
211-24; F. Miiller, Untersuchungen zur Reimprosa im 
Koran, Bonn 1969; A. Neuwirth, Images and 
metaphors in the introductory sections of the 
Makkan was, in Hawting and Shareef, 
Approaches, 3-36; id., Zur Struktur der Yfisuf- 
Sure, in W. Diem and S. Wild (eds.), Studien aus 
Arabistik und Semitistik. Anton Spitaler zum siebzigsten 
Geburtstag von seinen Schulern uberreicht, Wiesbaden 
1980, 123-52; Noldeke, gq (contains extensive 
discussion of the literary structures in the 
Qur'an); id., Remarques critiques sur le style et la 
syntaxe du Goran, trans. G.-H. Bousquet, Paris 
1953 (Fr. trans, of Neue Beitrdge); id., Zur Sprache 
des Korans, in id., Neue Beitrdge zur semitischen 
Sprachwissenschaft, Strassburg 1910, 1-30; M.M. 
Pickthall (trans.), The. meaning of the glorious Koran, 
London 1930; New York 1968; S. Qutb, Mashdhid 
al-qiydmafi l-Qur'dn, Cairo 1947; repr. 1966, 1981 ; 
id., al-Taswir alfanniji I- Qur'dn, Cairo 1945, 
repr. 1966; Cairo and Beirut 1987, repr. 1993; id., 

2jldl; F. Rahman, Translating the Qur'an, in 
Religion and literature 20 (1988), 23-30; G. Richter, 
Der Sprachstil des Koran, Leipzig 1940; Rippin, 
Approaches; N. Robinson, Discovering the Qur'dn. 
A contemporary approach to a veiled text, London 
1996; M. Sells, Approaching the Qur'dn. The early 
revelations, Ashland 1999; id., A literary approach 
to the hymnic suras of the Qur'an. Spirit, gender, 
and aural intertextuality, in I.J. Boullata (ed.), 
Literary structures of religious meaning in the Qur'dn, 
Richmond 2000, 3-25; id., Sound and meaning 
in sural al-Qdria, in Arabica 40 (1993), 402-30; 
D. Stewart, Saj' in the Qur'an. Prosody and 
structure, in jal 21 (1990), 101-39; A.L. Tibawi, 
Is the Qur'an translatable? Early Muslim 
opinion, in Miv'52 (1962), 4-17; Wansbrough, qs; 
Watt-Bell, Introduction; A.T. Welch, Formulaic 
features of the punishment-stories, in I.J. 
Boullata (ed.), Literary structures oj religious meaning 
in the Qur'dn, Richmond 2000, 77-116; Wild, Text; 
M. Worton andj. Still (eds.), Intertextuality. 
Theories and practice, Manchester 1990. 

Literature and the Qur'an 

This article deals with two main topics: 
the Qur'an as literature, which focuses on 
the literary aspects of the Qur'an, and the 
Qur'an in literature, which focuses on the 
use of the Qur'an in various Islamic litera- 
tures: Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, and 
Malay. For further and more comprehen- 
sive discussion of the utilization of the 
Qur'an in various non-Arabic Islamic liter- 
atures, see the articles south asian lite- 

Qur'dn as literature 
The literary study of the Qur'an focuses 
on how the Qur'an uses its form, i.e. its 
language, style, and structure (see lan- 

its message or content, i.e. its worldview, 
values and norms (see ethics and the 



qur'an). The emphasis in such a study falls 
on the "how" rather than on the "what" of 
the qur'anic presentation. The literary 
aspect of the Qur'an has been, in one form 
or another, a subject of study since early 
times but generally the context of such 
treatment has been theological, confes- 
sional or didactic rather than literary (see 
theology AND THE qur'an). The starting 
point in most such works on this topic is 
the challenge that the Qur'an issues to the 
disbelievers, namely, to produce a work like 
the Qur'an if they doubt its divine origin 
(see inimitability; revelation and 
inspiration; book; word of god). This 
approach is illustrated by the works of Abu 
Bakr al-Baqillanl (d. 403/1012) and 'Abd 
al-Qahir al-Jurjanl (d. 471/1078) — /jfclZ al- 
Qitr'an and Dald'il al-i'jaz, respectively. Both 
al-Baqillanl and al-Jurjanl seek to show 
that, as the word of God, the Qur'an is 
inimitable and, since it cannot be repli- 
cated by any human being, in whole or in 
part, it constitutes a miracle (q.v.). As such, 
it is a proof (q.v.) of the authenticity of 
Muhammad's prophecy (see prophets 
and prophethood) and, consequently, of 
the religion of Islam. Such works do not, in 
principle, attempt to isolate the literary 
aspect of the Qur'an for independent con- 
sideration. In 1939, Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) 
wrote that while works on the rhetorical 
aspect (baldgha) of the Qur'an do indeed 
exist (see rhetoric of the qur'an), no 
independent literary, i.e. artistic, study of 
the Qur'an exists "to this day" (Qutb, 
Taswir, i, 206). In recent years, the literary 
aspect of the Qur'an has received greater 
attention. A significant work in this con- 
nection is Literary structures of religious mean- 
ing in the Qur'an, edited by Issa Boullata (see 
As Boullata [Literary structures, x) points out 
in his introduction, literary structures 
include such diverse elements as "dic- 
tion, phonology, morphology, syntax 

[see grammar and THE qur'an], rhythm, 
rhetoric, composition and style, in addi- 
tion to matters related to tone, voice, 
orality [q.v.], imagery, symbolism [see 
symbolic imagery; metaphor], allegory, 
genre, point of view, intertextuality, intra- 
textual resonance and other literary 
aspects — all of which are set within a 
historic epistemology and cultural ambi- 
ance." In combination with one another, 
these elements produce "the total meaning 
which it (the Qur'an) contains and which 
many generations have tried to compre- 
hend" (ibid.). 

Historically, the atomistic style of exege- 
sis (see exegesis of the qur'an: classi- 
cal and medieval), which has dominated 
in qur'anic studies, has militated against 
the development of a proper literary 
approach to the Qur'an. In the atomistic 
approach, individual verses (q.v.) and verse 
segments become the focus of study, with 
little literary significance attached to the 
larger units of composition. Little wonder 
that this approach laid the Qur'an open to 
the charge of disjointedness: the reader 
gets a strong impression that the Qur'an 
moves from one subject to another quickly 
and arbitrarily, and perhaps without fol- 
lowing any organizing principle. And it is 
no surprise that few studies of narra- 
tive — of plot, dialogue, characteriza- 
tion — in the Qur'an consequently exist, 
for the very concept of narrative presup- 
poses the existence of sustained presenta- 
tion, which an atomistic approach does 
not allow (see narratives; myths and 
legends in the qur'an). 

One can argue that the charge of dis- 
jointedness against the Qur'an is over- 
stated. First, it obviously does not apply to 
many of the shorter suras (q.v.; for exam- 
ple, to suras 80-114), to a number of 
medium-sized suras, and to many passages 
and sections in larger suras. In many 
places, an easily identifiable principle of 



composition is seen to impart unity to 
portions of the text, as in Q_ 56:7-44 and 
Q_ 37:72-148, where a brief opening state- 
ment in each case is followed by details. 
Second, a closer study of the Quran can 
identify certain patterns of composition in 
it. Al-Zarkashl (d. 794/1391) has shown, for 
instance, that the Quran follows certain 
rules of ordering with fair regularity. Thus, 
it nearly always mentions existence before 
nonexistence, the heavens (see heaven and 
sky) before the earth (q.v.), place (see 
geography; spatial relations) before 
time (q.v.), darkness (q.v.) before light (q.v.) 
and night before day (see DAY AND night), 
hearing before sight (see seeing and 
hearing), messenger (q.v.; rasiil) before 
prophet (nabi), Jesus (q.v.) before Mary 
(q.v.), and the Meccan Emigrants before 
the Medinan Helpers (see emigrants and 
helpers; see, for these and other details, 
Zarkashl, Burhan, iii, 233 f.). Rules are like- 
wise respected in serial descriptions; 
Q_ 4:23-4, for example, lists, in order of 
increasingly distant relationships, the 
women a man is forbidden to marry (see 
prohibited degrees). Third and most 
important, the Qiir'an, perhaps more than 
any other scripture, has a living context 
that is vital to understanding its message. 
This living context is comprised of the 
direct and immediate record of the life and 
struggle of Muhammad (q.v.) and his fol- 
lowers in first/seventh-century Arabia (see 
and, in many cases, includes, as back- 
ground, unspoken assumptions, unstated 
questions and objections, unexpressed con- 
cerns, doubts, and reservations, knowledge 
of all of which was shared among the 
participants in a given situation (see oppo- 
sition to Muhammad; occasions of 
revelation). Proper consideration of this 
living context shows that the Qiir'an pos- 
sesses a high degree of coherence and con- 
tinuity. It must also be noted that a number 

of modern scholars of the Quran, Muslim 
and non-Muslim, have seen many patterns 
at work in the Qur'an and have drawn 
attention to previously unnoticed compo- 
sitional elements therein (see exegesis of 
the qur'an: early modern and contem- 
porary; contemporary critical prac- 
tices AND THE CHJR'An). 

Literary features 
The Qur'an has a rich repertoire of liter- 
ary features, among the best known being 
rhymed prose (q.v.; saj') and economy of 
expression, with its two subtypes of "ellip- 
sis" (hadhf) and "terseness" (ya~z)- The 
rhythm of the Qur'an is best appreciated 
when the Qur'an is recited or chanted (see 
recitation OF THE qjjr'an). In the pages 
that follow, we will review selected literary 
features of the Qur'an, to see how they are 
used to convey, enhance and set off its 

Words. Individual words used in many 
places in the Qur'an turn out, on closer 
examination, to have special significance 
in the contexts in which they occur. The 
prophet Jonah (q.v.), convinced that the 
people of Nineveh would never believe, 
decides to leave the city. The word used to 
describe his departure is abaqa (o 37:140), a 
word which is typically used in Arabic for a 
runaway slave (see slaves and slavery). 
Jonah is no slave. But then he is indeed 
one — God's (see servant). Being in the 
service of God, Jonah ought not to have 
decided on his own to quit prophesying but 
should have waited for God's command. 
The use of abaqa for Jonah, thus, trans- 
forms his departure from a simple physical 
act to one that is fraught with moral impli- 
cations. Again, the city of Medina (q.v.), 
which is almost invariably so called in the 
Qur'an, is designated by its pre-emigration 
name, Yathrib, only once, in Q_ 33:13. This 
is significant because in that verse the call 
"O people of Yathrib" is made by those 



who would desert the ranks of the Muslims 
at a time of crisis, hoping that Islam would 
soon be wiped out and that Medina would 
revert to its earlier pagan status and to its 
pre-Islamic name, Yathrib (see hypocrites 
and hypocrisy; polytheism and athe- 
of "Yathrib" in o_ 33:13, thus, graphically 
portrays the mentality of a certain group 
of people at a crucial juncture in the early 
history of Islam. 

Two words used for the same object or 
phenomenon in the Quran each appear to 
have contextual relevance. 'Asa, the general 
word for a rod (q.v.), occurs when the refer- 
ent is the staff of Moses (q.v.; as in q 2:60 
and 7:117). But the word for an old man's 
staff is minsa'a, and it is a minsa'a on which 
Solomon (q.v.) leans just before his death 
(O. 34 :i 4)> the word indicating, without any 
further help from the context, that Solo- 
mon died an old man. Similarly, Q_ 10:5 
uses the word diya\ which denotes bright 
light and also heat, for sunlight, but the 
word nur, which is more general, for moon- 
light (see sun; moon). 

In a large number of cases, sets of two or 
more words acquire their full meaning only 
when they are seen in a dialectical relation- 
ship with each other (see pairs and pair- 
ing). An obvious category of examples is 
that of the divine attributes, of which one 
example should suffice (see GOD AND his 
attributes). Many verses speak of God as 
being powerful ('aziz) and wise (hakim): 
since he is wise, he does not abuse his 
might; since he is mighty, his is not ineffec- 
tual wisdom (q.v; see also power and 
impotence). A complementary relation- 
ship thus comes to exist between the attri- 
butes of 'aziz and hakim. On a higher level, 
the Qur'an sometimes uses several words 
for one essential meaning — except that 
each word has a different nuance. A most 
interesting example occurs in Q_ 7:198. In 
describing expertly crafted idols (see idols 

and images) that look quite real, this verse 
employs three words for the verb "to see": 
wa-tarahum yanzuruna ilayka wa-hum la 
yubsiriina (see vision and blindness). 
A detailed analysis of the highly com- 
plex relationship between the three 
words — ra'a, nazara, and absara — is not 
possible here, though a tentative English 
translation, "And you notice that they are 
looking at you, but they do not see" might 
suggest the degree of complexity. 

In view of its concern with nuance, one 
can expect to find wordplay in the Qur'an. 
Q_ 12:70 has an extended play on the word 
saraqa, "to steal" (see theft): Joseph's 
brothers are "accused" of stealing the 
king's cup (see cups and vessels) but are, 
in fact, being accused of having "stolen" 
Joseph (q.v.) away from his father. In a sim- 
ilar manner, o_ 2:61 plays on the word misr, 
which means both a "city" (q.v.) and 
"Egypt" (q.v). Thus, Moses, unhappy at 
the wandering Israelites' (see children of 
Israel; jews and Judaism) demand for the 
good food to which they were accustomed 
in Egypt, says: "Go into some misr and you 
shall have what you have asked for!" As an 
indefinite noun, misr means "city," but as 
a diptote it is the name of the country, 
Egypt. The use of misr in the verse draws a 
contrast between the simple food eaten in 
the freedom of desert life and the more 
elegant food eaten in a state of servility in 
Egypt and, thus, the Israelites' demand is 
put in a political and moral context. 

Imagery. Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) has argued 
that the distinctive literary feature of the 
Qur'an is its ability to picture abstractions. 
A fine example is Q_ 24:35, the Light Verse, 
which states at the outset that God is the 
light of the heavens and the earth, then 
proceeds to give details of that light in 
terms of a similitude. Other examples of 
this phenomenon are found in the many 
passages that give graphic details of the 
cataclysmic last hour and have a truly epi- 



cal quality (e.g. o_ 39:67; 69:13-8; 82:1-4; see 
apocalypse; last judgment). The fre- 
quent occurrence of similes, metaphors 
and parables in the Quran gives evidence 
of the Qur'an's tendency to create vivid 

Although many of the qur'anic similes 
are drawn from the everyday life of the 
Arabs (q.v.) and from the environment 
familiar to them, the contexts in which 
they appear radically change their function 
and quality. The Arabs had seen tree- 
stumps being blown around by a strong 
wind but they must have been struck by 
the description of the rebellious people of 
'Ad (q.v.) being destroyed by a fierce wind, 
their dead bodies drifting about "as if they 
were stumps of hollow date-palms" 
(p_ 69:7; see also 54:20; see AIR AND wind; 
punishment stories). Q_ 54:7 depicts a 
scene of the last day, where human beings, 
raised from the dead (see DEATH and the 
dead) and in a state of confusion, are "as if 
they were locusts scattered all over" (cf. 
Q_ 101:4: "like moths scattered all around"). 
The mountains, which today seem immov- 
able, will, on the last day, float around "like 
carded wool" (p_ 101:5; see also 70:9). 
Q_ 29:41 says that those who rely on some- 
one other than God rely on the spider's 
web — "the weakest of houses." 

The metaphors of the Qur'an, like its 
similes, use images that were familiar to 
the Arabs but acquire new significations in 
the Qur'an. o 2:187 calls husband and wife 
"garments" to each other, implying, on the 
one hand, that marriage protects one's 
chastity (q.v.), and, on the other, admonish- 
ing the marriage partners to remain faith- 
ful to each other (see marriage and 
divorce). And since the Arabs engaged in 
trade and commerce, several metaphors 
involving the notions of buying, selling, 
and giving a loan hark back to this context 
(e.g. o_ 2:16, 141, 245; 9:111; 35:29; 57:11; see 
selling and buying; debt; markets). 

Qur'anic parables usually illustrate key 
ideas of the Qur'an. There is a variety of 
such parables, which are often signaled by 
a phrase like "The parable of [such-and- 
such a person] is " We may take as an 

example o_ 2:17-8, which describes the atti- 
tude of those who refuse to accept the 
guidance they have been looking for when 
it is presented to them — ironically missing 
the opportunity for which they have been 
looking: "Their parable is that of a man 
who kindled a fire (q.v.); when it had lit up 
the surrounding area, God took away their 
light, leaving them in layers of darkness, 
unable to see as they are. Deaf (see hear- 
ing and deafness), dumb, blind — so they 
shall not return!" q 2:264-5 makes the 
point that only acts of charity done to win 
God's pleasure will be rewarded in the 
hereafter (see eschatology; reward and 
punishment; good deeds): condescension 
toward or harm of the recipient of a favor 
will wipe out a charitable act, just as the 
dust on a rock is wiped clean by rain, 
whereas charitable acts done in a true 
spirit of piety will grow, just as a garden on 
a height will grow and prosper even if it 
gets a drizzle. 

Parallelism, chiasmus, and epanados. Various 
kinds of emphasis are produced through 
parallelism, which has an ABA'B' structure 
(as in Q_ 11:24: those who are blind and 
those who are deaf/those possessed of 
sight and those able to hear; see also 
Q_ 20:118-9; 28:73). Emphasis is also pro- 
duced through chiasmus or reverse paral- 
lelism, which has an ABBA' structure (as in 
q 40:58: those who are blind and those 
who are sighted/those who believe [see 
belief and unbelief] and do good deeds 
and those who do evil deeds [q.v.]). Some 
of these arrangements are quite elaborate 
and complex, as in Q_ 35:19-22, where par- 
allel and chiastic structures interpenetrate. 
In the story of Joseph in the twelfth sura, 
the plot is constructed on the principle of 


chiasmus; as Mustansir Mir (The qur'anic 
story of Joseph) has shown, the first half of 
the sura builds a series of tensions which 
are then resolved in reverse order in the 
second half. In epanados, one returns to the 
idea with which one started (reditus ad pro - 
positum), highlighting, on the one hand, the 
importance of the reiterated idea and, on 
the other hand, the interconnectedness of 
the materials enclosed between the two 
occurrences of the idea. p_ 17:22-39, thus, 
begins and ends with the prohibition of 
setting up false deities; and o_ 23:1-11 enu- 
merates a number of qualities of the true 
believers — those who will "achieve 
success" — the passage underscoring the 
importance of the prayer (q.v.) ritual by 
referring to it at the beginning (p_ 23:2) and 
toward the end (o_ 23:9; cf. a similar 
emphasis on prayer in the large section of 
o 2:163-238, where prayer is mentioned at 
the beginning, in Q_ 2:177 and at the end, in 
Q_ 2:238). 

Other devices. We will briefly note several 
other devices used in the Qur'an, giving 
one example of each and indicating the 
purpose it serves in its context. Q_ 2:51 
accuses all of the Israelites of worshipping 
the calf (see calf of gold) when only 
some of them had done so. This substitu- 
tion of the whole for a part (synecdoche) 
underscores the principle of collective 
responsibility. God sends down rain from 
the skies but o_ 45:5 says that God sends 
down rizq, "sustenance": by substituting 
effect for cause (metonymy), the verse focuses 
our attention on the actual products of the 
rainwater we consume, eliciting from us a 
response of gratitude (see gratitude and 
ingratitude; blessing; grace). q_ 4:102 
asks the embattled Muslims to "take their 
guard (hidhr) and their weapons (asliha)." 
The verb for "take," akhadha, applies liter- 
ally to "weapons," but only metaphorically 
to "guard." The use of one verb in two 
senses (syllepsis) indicates that the best way 

to take one's guard in a situation of war 
(q.v.) is to have one's weapons ready. 
Q_ 9:62, using the singular pronoun for God 
and Muhammad when one would expect 
the dual, deliberately violates grammar for 
effect (enallage), implying that, in order to 
please God, the believers must first please 
his messenger by obeying him, for to obey 
Muhammad is to obey God (see obe- 
dience). q_ 21:89-90 says that God granted 
Zechariah's (q.v.) prayer for a son, even 
though Zechariah was very old and his 
wife was sterile: "We granted his prayer 
and gave him John (see JOHN THE baptist), 
and we made his wife fertile for him." The 
sequence, one feels, should have been: We 
granted his prayer; we made his wife fertile 
for him; and [having done so] we gave 
him John. The reversal of the expected 
sequence (hysteron proteron) in the verse sug- 
gests immediacy: Zechariah's prayer was 
granted without any delay at all, so much 
so that the detail itself, "We made his wife 
fertile for him," was not allowed to inter- 
vene between the prayer and its accep- 
tance. In many verses, a series of divine 
attributes is presented without the use of 
the conjunction "and" (wa), as in Q_ 59:23: 
"He, God, is the one other than whom 
there is no god: King, possessor of glory 
[source of] peace, giver of security, protec- 
tor, mighty, dominant, proud." Such an 
omission of the conjunction (asyndeton) 
serves to emphasize the unity or integrality 
of all the divine attributes and their simul- 
taneous existence in the same deity — and, 
by thus negating division or distribution of 
the attributes among several deities, to 
reinforce the doctrine of monotheism. In 
Q_ 21:63, Abraham (q.v.), tongue in cheek, 
rejects the charge of demolishing the idols 
of the temple, imputing the act to the chief 
idol, whom he had spared, and suggesting 
that the temple custodians ask the broken 
idols about the matter. This affirmation 
through denial (apophasis) enables him to 


checkmate his opponents, for he means to 
drive home the point that a dumb piece of 
rock does not deserve to be deified. 

Irony. Irony is created through a contrast 
between appearance and reality, for exam- 
ple, between a situation as it is or might 
develop and the situation as it appears to 
someone. In tempting Adam and Eve (q.v.) 
in the garden (q.v.) of Eden, Satan (see 
devil) suggests to them that the fruit of 
the forbidden tree could transform them 
into angels but that God would not like 
them to become angels; hence the prohibi- 
tion to eat of the tree (o_ 7:20). But the 
angels have already bowed (see bowing 
and prostration) before man (p_ 2:30-4) 
and acknowledged his supremacy, so that 
man's attempt to become an angel (q.v.) 
constitutes a descent, not an ascent, on his 
part (see fall of man). In the story of the 
People of the Garden (p_ 68:17-33), the rich 
but niggardly owners of the orchard, upon 
seeing their orchard destroyed, think that 
they must have arrived at someone else's 
orchard, and so they exclaim, "We have 
lost our way!" (inna la-dalluna, Q_ 68:26). But 
they do not realize that they have lost their 
way not in the literal sense but in the 
figurative — moral — sense. Upon realiz- 
ing that it is their own orchard they have 
reached after all, they say that they are 
mahrumun (q 68:27), that is, deprived of the 
produce, not realizing that they have been 
deprived of God's blessings in this world 
and the next. The qur'anic story of Joseph 
(q_ 12), like the biblical, offers a dramatiza- 
tion of the thesis that God's purposes are 
inexorably fulfilled and irony is one of the 
principal means of establishing that thesis 
(see Mir, Irony in the Qur'an). 

Characterization and dialogue. Very few of 
the persons mentioned or referred to in the 
Qur'an are actually named. In almost all 
cases, however, they are distinctive enough 
to be recognizable. The qur'anic Moses is, 
of course, unmistakable, but so is the 

unnamed man who comes rushing in from 
the far end of the city to inform Moses of 
the Egyptians' plot to kill him (q_ 28:20). 
The qur'anic Joseph is easily recognizable 
but so is the unnamed Egyptian noble- 
woman who tries to seduce him (o_ 12:23). 
A few points about characterization in the 
Qur'an may be noted (comparisons with 
characterization in the Bible will be fruit- 
ful). First, there is very little physical 
description. This absence indicates that 
such detail is not a crucial element of char- 
acter: people must not be judged on their 
appearance but on the strength of their 
deeds (cf. C3 49:13: "The noblest of you in 
the sight of God is the most pious one of 
you"; see piety). Second, the Qur'an does 
not recount the day-to-day events and hap- 
penings in the lives of its characters, whom 
we encounter only at decisive moments 
when, through their speech or action, they 
reveal their true selves, or provide signifi- 
cant clues about their views, attitudes, and 
inclinations, and help us "place" them. 
Third, there are not only individual but 
also collective characters in the Qur'an. In 
many places (e.g. in Q_ 11, "Hud"), the 
Qur'an speaks of small or large groups of 
people, even nations, as if they were a sin- 
gle personality speaking or acting in uni- 
son. Thus, in a dialogue, a prophet might 
be represented as addressing a number of 
courtiers or nobles who speak and act as if 
they were a single entity. The implication, 
of course, is that the view held in common, 
or the action done in concert, is more 
important than the individuality of the 
characters. Even in these cases, however, 
the group qua group is usually seen to have 
its distinctive identity. Thus, Joseph's 
brothers (in Q_ 12), the magicians of Pha- 
raoh (q.v.; Q_ 7:113-26; 20:65-73; 26:41-51), 
and the People of the Garden (q_ 68:17-32) 
have clearly identifiable personalities. 
Fourth, just as there are groups that look 
like individuals, so there are individuals 


who represent types. It is true that qur'anic 
characters are, as a rule, presented within 
the general framework of the conflict 
between good and evil (q.v.), but they are 
not abstractions. Regardless of their moral 
alignment, most characters come across as 
men and women of flesh and blood and 
display traits that are very much human. 
And while many of the qur'anic characters 
are either "good" or "bad," they can 
hardly be called flat — in the sense in 
which E.M. Forster famously used the 
term. Moses, quite obviously, is a multidi- 
mensional figure, as are Abraham, Joseph, 
the Queen of Sheba (see bilqJs), and Pha- 
raoh's magicians, who all undergo some 
kind of change and development with 
time. (On dialogue in the Qur'an, see 

Tasrif as a narrative principle. Tasrif, a word 
used in the Qur'an to denote the changing 
patterns of movement of the winds 
(o_ 2:164; 45:5) and also the diverse modes 
of presentation of the qur'anic message 
(nusarrifu, as in o_ 6:65; and sarrafna, in 
Q_ 17:41; 46:27), may be called a qur'anic 
narrative principle. Typically, the Qur'an 
does not present, for example, a story all in 
one place but breaks it up into several por- 
tions, relating different portions in different 
places, often with varying amounts and 
emphasis of detail, as they are needed and 
in accordance with the thematic exigencies 
of the suras in which they occur. The 
Qur'an does not tell a story for its own sake 
but in order to shed light on the theme 
under treatment in a particular sura. In 
doing so, it eliminates chronology (see 
organizing principle in narration, replac- 
ing it with the principle of thematic coher- 
ence, a principle that determines which 
portion of a story will be narrated in what 
place. In other words, the story told in a 
given sura is likely to be sura-specific. A 
number of Western writers — among 

them Angelika Neuwirth, Anthony Johns, 
Ncal Robinson and Matthias Zahniser (see 
bibliography) — have attempted to see 
qur'anic suras as unities or as possessing 
thematic and structural coherence. 

Repetition. The Qur'an appears to be 
repetitive in respect of both thematic sub- 
stance and formal expression. Muslim 
scholars who have dealt with this phenom- 
enon have concluded that repetition in the 
Qur'an, whether in form or substance, is 
usually quite significant and purposeful. At 
a basic level, repetition serves to put em- 
phasis on a point, catching an overflow of 
meaning, as in o_ 19:42-5, where Abraham, 
imploring his father to abandon the wor- 
ship of idols, uttersjya abati ("O my dear 
father!") no fewer than four times, the rep- 
etition indicating his deep love and con- 
cern for the salvation (q.v.) of his father. 
Sometimes, repetition is used to insure a 
cumulative impact, as when a series of 
verses or sentences, beginning with the 
same word or words create a crescendo 
effect, leading to a climactic point (e.g. 
Q_ 7:195; 52:30-43). One or more phrases 
repeated two or more times, say, at the 
beginning of a series of passages, may 
serve as a frame for presenting an argu- 
ment or making a comment. o_ 26:104-90 
relates the stories of five prophets — Noah 
(q.v.), Hud (q.v.), Salih (q.v), Lot (q.v.) and 
Shu'ayb (q.v.) — and their nations. All five 
passages in this section have an almost 
identical beginning. The repetition in this 
passage may appear to be formulaic but in 
fact it highlights (here and in many similar 
passages, e.g. Q_ 7:59-102) several things: 
that the many prophets sent by God all 
preached the same essential message; that 
each of these prophets was a member of 
the nation he addressed, so that the people, 
who knew him to be truthful and thus had 
little reason to reject his message, opposed 
him out of sheer stubbornness (see lie; 
truth; insolence and obstinacy); that 



although each prophet sought to rectify the 
evil peculiar to his nation, all of them be- 
gan their preaching by calling their peoples 
to the correct faith (q.v.), which is the foun- 
dation of all good conduct; and that 
Muhammad the prophet should not grieve 
at his rejection by the people of Mecca 
(q.v.), for just as God has punished the re- 
bellious nations of those prophets, so he 
will punish the Meccans if they continue to 
oppose him. The formal identity of expres- 
sion in the several parts of the passage thus 
conveys a complex set of meanings. 

At times the Qur'an employs refrain. A 
celebrated example occurs in o_ 55, where 
the verse "Which of the blessings of God 
will you, then, deny?" occurs no fewer than 
thirty-one times. According to Amln Ahsan 
Islahl (1906-97), this sura was revealed in 
Mecca at a time when Muhammad's oppo- 
nents adamantly refused to accept the 
Qur'an, defiantly asking for the punish- 
ment with which they were threatened in 
case they disbelieved. The sura, accord- 
ingly, uses the refrain to force their atten- 
tion. As Islahl puts it: "This stylistic feature 
of repeatedly drawing someone's attention 
to something is, of course, used only when 
the addressee is either so stubborn that he 
is unwilling to accept what goes against his 
wishes, or so obtuse that he cannot be 
expected to see reason unless he is held by 
the scruff of his neck and forced to pay 
attention to every single thing" (Islahl, 
Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vii, 119). In other words, 
the refrain in p_ 55 serves to bring into relief 
the particular mentality of the Meccan dis- 
believers at a certain stage of Muham- 
mad's ministry. Islahl notes that p_ 54 was 
revealed in a similar set of circumstances, 
and that it, too, has a refrain ("How were 
my punishment and my threat?" see id., 
Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vii, 119). 

The classical works on the Qur'an are 
important aids to understanding the 
Qur'an. Yet, from an artistic or literary 

point of view, they have certain limitations; 
the principal one being that, in these 
works, the literary study of the Qur'an 
rarely achieves independence of theologi- 
cal considerations. In this respect, the 
study of the Qur'an as literature in the 
modern sense of the term is in its begin- 
ning stages. Such study will definitely be 
helped by insights gleaned from the study 
of the Bible as literature, though the differ- 
ences between the two scriptures will re- 
quire that each be approached essentially 
on its own terms (see SCRIPTURE AND THE 
qur'an). The field of the literary study of 
the Qur'an holds considerable promise and 
is one in which cooperation between Mus- 
lim and Western scholars can be quite 

Qur'an in literature 
There is no doubt that the Qur'an exerted 
a tremendous influence on various Islamic 
literatures, just as it did in other areas of 
artistic and intellectual activity in Islamic 
civilization. Its influence on Arabic litera- 
ture in particular was, as expected, the 
earliest, but also the most intensive and 
enduring: Arabic, after all, was the lan- 
guage in which the Qur'an was revealed. 
But as Islam moved beyond its initial area 
of dissemination, both in the first centuries 
of its expansion but also in subsequent 
periods of commercial, military and mis- 
sionary activity, the Qur'an interacted with 
numerous linguistic and literary cultures. 

Qur'an in Arabic literature 
Although Arabic, as a language and a liter- 
ary tradition, was quite well developed by 
the time of Muhammad's prophetic activ- 
ity, it was only after the emergence of 
Islam, with its founding scripture in Ara- 
bic, that the language reached its utmost 
capacity of expression, and the literature 
its highest point of complexity and so- 
phistication. Indeed, it probably is no 



exaggeration to say that the Qur'an was 
one of the most conspicuous forces in the 
making of classical and post-classical 
Arabic literature. 

According to the Muslim scholars (both 
of the Qur'an and of literature), the use of 
the Quran in literature is to be clearly dis- 
tinguished from the "imitation" of the 
Qur'an, mu'arada, deemed to be beyond the 
capability of human beings. Comparing 
the two phenomena, the literary scholar 
al-Tha'alibl (d. 429/1039) has the following 
to say in the theoretical introduction to the 
earliest and most comprehensive book on 
the subject, his al-Iqtibds min al-Qur'an at- 
kanm (Tha'alibl, Iqtibas, i, 37-9; see also 
Gilliot, Un florilege coranique). He first 
dwells on the idea of the Qur'an as God's 
most beautiful and majestic speech (q.v.) 
whose revelation sent shock waves among 
the eloquent Arabs of the time and made 
them admit humbly of its superiority, of 
their inability to produce anything like it, 
and hence of its being the Prophet's 
miracle — like Moses' rod and Jesus' abil- 
ity to heal the sick and raise the dead. 
Understandably, he concludes, anyone who 
tried to imitate the Qur'an after the spread 
of Islam failed; what people could do was 
"to borrow" from it {iqtibas, as in the book's 
title). Consequently, according to al- 
Tha'alibl, whereas imitation of the Qur'an 
was a breach of the distinctive status of the 
Qur'an and the Prophet, unfeasible and 
foolish, borrowing from the Qur'an pro- 
tected the Qur'an's and the Prophet's 
distinguished status, and was therefore 
both feasible and wise. It adorned the lit- 
terateurs' speech, beautified it, and made it 
more eloquent, elevated, and sublime. 
Tha'alibl offers this as an explanation for 
the borrowing from the Qur'an that was 
widely practiced by all involved in the vari- 
ous branches of literary expression, both 
oral and written, up until his own day. 

AI-Tha'alibi — writing in the late fourth/ 

early eleventh century — was not only in 
favor of qur'anic borrowing in literature 
but also completely oblivious to the issue of 
its legitimacy. Before him, only two reli- 
gious scholars had expressed their aversion 
to it: al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728; see 
Qalqashandi, Subh, i, igo) and al-Baqillanl 
(d. 403/1012; see Zarkashl, Burhan, i, 483). 
Later, however (possibly as late as the 
eighth/fourteenth century), the question of 
the legitimacy of qur'anic borrowing 
became a subject of discussion in the 
works of scholars of the Qur'an, literature, 
and rhetoric (see Zarkashl, Burhan, i, 481-5; 
Suyuti, Itqdn, i, 147-9; Qalqashandi, Subh, 
i, 190-1; Macdonald/Bonebakker, Iktibas, 
1092). Significantly, though, almost all of 
these scholars noted that, with the excep- 
tion of the Malikis, the vast majority of the 
scholars found qur'anic borrowing either 
permissible or commendable. While these 
authors themselves did not object to the 
principle of mixing the sacred (see SANCTITY 
AND THE sacred) with the profane (q.v.), 
they examined and regulated its suitability: 
there were places where such usage could 
be considered befitting, and hence would 
be acceptable (e.g. in sermons, speeches, 
testaments); not unbefitting, and hence 
permissible (e.g. in love poetry, letters, sto- 
ries); and unbefitting, and hence impermis- 
sible (e.g. in jest, vulgarity and profanity; 
and cf. Tha'alibl, Iqtibas, chap. 16). In these 
judgments they seem to have been guided 
by matters of precedence and historical 
reality. For the scholars could not deny the 
numerous reports that the Prophet and 
some of his most venerable Companions 
(see companions of the prophet) had 
used qur'anic citations in their speech/ 
hadith (see hadith and the qur'an), as 
well as the fact that borrowing from the 
Qur'an in literature was very widespread 
in the works of litterateurs, among them 
some of the most pious and strict religious 
scholars, such as al-Shafi'l (d. 204/820) and 



'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadl (d. 429/1037). 
All of this confirms — as is alluded to 
by al-Suyutl (d. 911/1505; Itqan, i, 147, 
1. 1 1-2) — that the theoretical discussion of 
the legitimacy of qur'anic borrowing is a 
late phenomenon and that before that time 
the Qur'an was used freely in literature. 

What the scholars meant exactly by "bor- 
rowing" can be gleaned from the terms 
they used to describe this phenomenon. 
The first two terms which we encounter 
are rather peculiar and seemingly negative: 
they are sariqa, "theft or plagiarism" — as 
in the title of 'Abdallah b. Yahya b. 
Kunasa's (d. 207/822) now lost book, al- 
Kumayt's [d. 126/244] thefts /sariqat/ from 
the Qur'an (Ibn al-Nadlm, 77/70-1/i, 
155) — and ikhtilds, "theft or misappro- 
priation" — as in al-Hamdanl's (d. 334/ 
945) description of Bishr b. Abl Kubar 
al-Balawl's (d. after 202/817) Qur'an- 
studded letters (HamdanI, Sifat, 86). The 
context of these terms, however, indicates 
that they meant something positive like 
"plucking" — a kind of stealthy, unex- 
pected appropriation of qur'anic materials 
which takes the readers/listeners (pleas- 
antly) by surprise. After the fourth/tenth 
century, the terms for qur'anic borrowing 
become more clearly neutral and more or 
less standardized: intizd', "extraction," 
tadmln, "insertion" (a word taken over from 
the insertion of poetry or proverbs in 
prose), iqtibds, "borrowing," 'aqd (used for 
the Qur'an in poetry only), also istishhdd, 
"citation," talwlh/talmlh, "allusion," ishdra, 
"reference," in addition to two more words 
which mean "extraction": istinbdt and 
istikhrdj (Tawhldi, Basd'ir, ii, 230; Tha'alibi, 
Iqtibds, i, 193; Zarkashl, Burhdn, 483; 
Qalqashandl, Subh, i, 189, 194, 197, 199, 
200; Suyuti, Itqan, i, 147; Jomaih, The use of 
the Qur'an, 1-2). As understood by Muslim 
scholars, then, qur'anic borrowing in liter- 
ature occurs when litterateurs extract some 
material from the Qur'an and insert it skill- 

fully into their literary products in the form 
of citation, reference, or allusion. 

The use of the Qur'an in Arabic litera- 
ture began as early as the lifetime of the 
Prophet, for we know that some of the 
new poet-converts to Islam, 'Abdallah b. 
Rawaha (d. 8/629), Ka'b b. Zuhayr (d. 26/ 
645), and Hassan b. Thabit (d. 54/674), 
used it extensively in their poetry (Khan, 
Vom Einfluss des Qur'dns; see POETRY AND 
poets). As the Islamic community ex- 
panded, this use grew conspicuously and 
was undertaken not only by Muslims but 
also by non-Muslims, like the Christian 
Umayyad poet al-Akhtal (d. 90/709) and 
the Sabian Abbasid prose writer Abu Hilal 
al-Sabi (d. 384/994). This was unavoidable 
for a number of reasons: the Qur'an was 
not only a powerful religious guide and 
companion in ritual for the believers but 
also an equally powerful literary text for 
all of the residents of the Islamic realm, 
believers and non-believers alike. Its text 
and script (see Arabic script; Arabic 

codices OF THE q_ur'an) were standard- 
ized early enough to make it reasonably 
accessible even to non-native speakers of 
Arabic. From the earliest times, profes- 
sional Qur'an reciters roamed the empire, 
teaching and transmitting it (see teaching 
and preaching the qur'an). Teachers in 
the informal schools made it a primary 
item in their curricula; scholars established 
disciplines of learning to investigate each 
aspect of it (see traditional disciplines 
of qur'anic study); and the supremacy of 
Arabic as the language of state, society and 
civilization made it practically impossible 
to escape its impact. Indeed, before the 
end of the Umayyad period (132/750), the 
Qur'an was identified by the chief secre- 
tary of the central chancery, 'Abd al- 
Hamld al-Katib (d. 132/750), as the first 
item in the required list of studies needed 
by the state's secretaries (al-Qadl, The 



impact of the Qur'an, 287), many of 
whom became leading figures of Arabic 
literature for centuries to come. This idea 
became rooted so deeply that it was re- 
peated by scholars over and over again (see 
QalqashandT, Subh, i, 200-1). In the 
sixth/twelfth century a secretary to the 
Fatimids, Ibn al-Sayrafi (d. 542/1147), 
wrote an entire book entitled Intiza'at al- 
Qiir'an al-'agim (as yet unpublished) in 
which he listed the qur'anic verses that 
could be used by the state's secretaries in 
the presentation of a multitude of topics. 
On another level, the Qur'an seemed to be 
the only — or at least, the principal — fac- 
tor of stability in the early, turbulent de- 
cades of Islam, when factionalism was 
rampant, there were conflicts galore and 
the search for the "true" Islam was taken 
very seriously in all the sectors of the 
community. This made the Qur'an an 
indispensable reference for all those groups 
and, with that, it became an organic part 
of their consciousness. In addition, the 
Qur'an — in this crucial formative 
period — was frequently memorized (see 
memory), even when its study was accom- 
panied by a written text, as indeed it still is 
today. This gave it, from the early days of 
Islam, a prominent mental presence in the 
minds of the people living in Islamic lands 
and it could not but become part of the lit- 
erature they produced. 

The main areas in which the Qur'an 
exerted noticeable influence on Arabic lit- 
erature are diction and themes; other areas 
are related to the literary aspects of the 
Qur'an, particularly oaths (q.v.), meta- 
phors, imagery, motifs, and symbols. As far 
as diction is concerned, one could say that 
qur'anic words, idioms, and expressions, 
especially "loaded" and formulaic phrases, 
appear in practically all genres of literature 
and in such abundance that it is simply im- 
possible to compile a full record of them 

(see slogans from the q_ur'an). For not 
only did the Qur'an create an entirely new 
linguistic corpus to express its message, it 
also endowed old, pre-Islamic words with 
new meanings and it is these meanings that 
took root in the language and subsequently 
in the literature. Again, because in qur'anic 
borrowing words can be taken out of their 
qur'anic context, there are almost limitless 
contexts in which they may be used. 

Qur'anic themes also occur frequently in 
literature. Themes pertaining to God and 
his power/mercy (q.v), to the Qur'an with 
its many names (see NAMES OF THE 
qur'an), to prophethood and the stories of 
various prophets and messengers, to the 
relation of God to humans and of humans 
to God with various aspects, to the human 
condition from the Fall onward, to the 
Islamic experience and early history begin- 
ning with the mission of Muhammad, and 
to many aspects of morality, ethics, law 
(see LAW AND THE qjjr'an), theology, cos- 
mology (q.v.) and eschatology, are, among 
others, themes that many litterateurs used 
in their work. Such themes tended to occur 
in some genres more than others; one 
encounters them most frequently, for 
example, in elegies, self-praise, panegyric 
and its opposite, satire, and above all in 
ascetic, Sufi and devotional literature (see 

The use of the literary aspects of the 
Qur'an is more difficult to categorize: it 
could occur anywhere, sometimes in the 
most unexpected places, as in a poem on 
wine-drinking — hardly a positive activity 
in Islam (Zubaidi, The impact, 328; see 
wine; intoxicants). Other examples col- 
lected by Zubaidi (The impact, 325, 326, 
334) indicate that images in literature 
derived from the Qur'an can be coined 
through similes and metaphors as well as 
qur'anic motifs, like the motif of exile from 
heaven, as in al-Farazdaq's (d. 110/728) 



portrayal of himself after he had divorced 
his beloved wife: "She was my paradise 
(q.v.), from which I was exiled/Like Adam 
when he rebelled against his lord (q.v.; see 
also rebellion)." 

More frequently, qur'anic characters with 
powerful symbolic values (like Joseph for 
beauty [q.v.] , Abraham for faith, Pharaoh 
for persistence in disbelief, and so forth; see 
belief AND unbelief) are mentioned in 
literature to draw striking images of the 
ideas the litterateur wants to communicate. 
The most enduring of these symbolic char- 
acters is the devil, the arch-representative 
of disobedience and sin (see sin, major 
and minor), whose image is often por- 
trayed vividly and in great detail in politi- 
cal and other literature, notably by Abd 
al-Hamld al-Katib (see al-Qadi, The 
impact, 304-6). 

Initially, the insertion of qur'anic mate- 
rial in Arabic literature happened effort- 
lessly and without any particular purpose 
in mind, as manifested by the poetry of the 
Prophet's contemporaries (mentioned 
above). With the passage of time — but 
still quite early — as the litterateurs 
became more aware of the Qur'an 's great 
potential, they drew upon it with both 
more consciousness and more sophistica- 
tion. They began to use it out of piety, to 
beautify their literary products, to render 
them more witty, forceful and effective 
(particularly in sermons, speeches and 
political literature), or to make them more 
convincing to their audiences, especially 
when dealing with controversial issues that 
could benefit from divine sanction, like sec- 
tarian beliefs (see Jomaih, The use of the 
Qur'an, loc. cit.). The letters of the second/ 
eighth century prose writer Bishr al-BalawI 
(see below) are a shining example of the 
degree of sophistication and complexity 
that qur'anic borrowing reached, as we 
find, for example, in a letter describing his 
delight at the addressee's promise to give 

him money, and then his despair when this 
promise was rescinded (al-Qadi, Bishr ibn 
Abi Kubar, 161): 

... when I mentioned [my need to you], 
you brightened up like dawn, rejoicing as if 
at good news (cf. Q_ 80:38-9), and you 
promised "a fair promise" (o_ 20:86). So 
I spent my pension on account of your 
brightening up, and I became liberal with 
my children on account of your rejoicing, 
and I borrowed from my friends on 
account of your promise. But when I came 
to you requesting fulfillment, you frowned 
and showed displeasure (cf. Q_ 74:22), then 
you turned away in pride (cf. o 74:23). Now 
the money is gone, hope (q.v.) is cut off, 
and I have despaired of [attaining] my 
ambition "as the disbelievers have de- 
spaired of those who are in the graves" 

(a 60:13). 

The use of the Qur'an for ideological pur- 
poses and for propaganda also occurred 
early due to historical circumstances and it 
still occurs today. Its use for social and 
political criticism resonates in many liter- 
ary works and has lately become particu- 
larly conspicuous in modern Arabic litera- 
ture, as in the politically scathing poems of 
the contemporary Egyptian poet Ahmad 
Matar, where one reads, for example 
(Lafitat, 11): 

I read in the Qur'an: 

"The power of Abu Lahab will perish." 


The submission media declared: 
"Silence is golden." 

[But] I loved my poverty . . . [So] I contin- 
ued to recite: 

"And he will perish." (o 111:1) 
"His wealth and gains will not exempt 
him." (q 111:2) 
My throat was confiscated, 
For incivility. 


in 8 

And the Qur'an was confiscated, 
Because it spurred me to [incite] trouble. 

The way in which qur'anic materials were 
used in both poetry and prose varied 
greatly from one author to another and 
within the works of a single author, some- 
times even within a single piece (see al- 
Qadl, The limitations). Not infrequently, 
qur'anic words, expressions, parts of ayas 
and full ayas, are cited verbatim; and some- 
times more than one of these elements are 
juxtaposed in a literary text and linked 
together with some sort of a conjunction. 
More frequently than not, such qur'anic 
citations are inserted in the text without an 
explicit introduction or antecedent state- 
ment indicating that the Qur'an is being 
used. Explicit indication, however, does 
occur sometimes, and sentences like "as 
God, may he be exalted, said in his book" 
signal the author's departure from his 
words to those of the Qur'an. 

Since literal citation is costly for littera- 
teurs, in that it forces them to make both 
syntactical and stylistic accommodations to 
their texts (the poets had to deal with the 
additional restrictions of meter and rhyme), 
the litterateurs, more often than not, tended 
to modify or rephrase qur'anic materials 
before inserting them into their texts. This 
gave them greater freedom in their selec- 
tion of qur'anic materials, and kept their 
own stylistic preferences intact, all the 
while enabling them to achieve what they 
wanted from qur'anic borrowing. In fact, 
modified borrowing could give their text 
greater force since, with the source of their 
borrowed segments obscured, they could 
easily appropriate those segments and, skill- 
fully blending them into their own texts, 
convey the impression that the segments' 
words were their own. And, since modified 
borrowing in one instance did not bar lit- 
eral citation in another, it became quite 
usual in the works of versatile writers to 

mix both ways, even within a single work. 
The techniques used by authors to mod- 
ify qur'anic materials are numerous and 
can be studied on the level of syntax and 
style (see al-Qadl, Bishr ibn Abi Kubar, 
99-109; id., The impact, 289-307). On the 
level of syntax, authors made changes in 
person (first to third, or second to third) 
and number (plural to singular, and vice 
versa). They used pronouns for qur'anic 
nouns when they needed, and replaced the 
nouns with verbs from the same root. A 
qur'anic definite noun could become indef- 
inite, and a phrase in the imperative mood 
could be changed to the indicative if the 
syntax required such a modification. 
Changes of qur'anic materials dictated by 
style are a little more complex and their 
detection requires familiarity not only with 
the qur'anic text but also with the writer's 
style. If the writer tends to use parallelism 
in his work, he is likely to resort to amplifi- 
cation, where he would take, for example, 
a two-word qur'anic expression, break it 
up, bring a synonym for each word, then 
add a conjunction in the middle, thereby 
ending with a pair of parallel expressions. 
To amplification also belongs a technique 
called analogy, where the writer takes a 
qur'anic expression, adds to it one or more 
parallel expressions of his own, thereby 
amplifying the text analogically. Con- 
versely, an author may also resort to 
reduction when brevity is the goal, as in 
invocations, for example. Of the tech- 
niques of reduction, one could mention 
coining. This consists of the creation of 
single-word terms that are summations of 
whole qur'anic phrases. Another tech- 
nique, grammatical translation, consists of 
taking one or more qur'anic ayas of a par- 
ticular mood (e.g. imperative) and then 
"translating" them into words (e.g. He or- 
dered...), thereby causing the qur'anic 
statements to be reduced. On a simpler 
level, a writer could, for stylistic purposes, 



use synonyms or antonyms for qur'anic 
words, re-arrange words and expressions in 
the borrowed sentences, and consciously 
change the length of the borrowed or 
added segments so as to accord with the 
author's preferences in musical cadence. 

Finally, the use of the Quran in literature 
also took the form of allusion or reference, 
whereby a writer makes incidental mention 
of some qur'anic material which is so well- 
known as to evoke clear and strong associa- 
tions, like, for example, Abraham's fire 
(o_ 21:68-71), Lot's wife (o_ 66:10), Joseph's 
shirt (o_ 12:18), Moses' rod (p_ 2:60; 7:107, 
117, 160; 26:32, 45, 63; 27:10; 28:31), Salih's 
she-camel (q. 7:73, 77; 11:64-5; I7 : 59; 
26:155-7; 91:13-4), or the People of the 
Cave (ashab al-kahf, cj 18:9-26; see men of 
THE cave). Since this technique requires 
minimal accommodation from the writer 
and at the same time allows him optimal 
benefit from the Qur'an's presence in the 
text, it was used very frequently in litera- 
ture, particularly in poetry. 

The Qtir'an is used slightly differently in 
Arabic poetry than in Arabic prose. This is 
due to two differences between poetry and 
prose: genre and historical origin. With the 
exception of the relatively recent free 
verse, the generic restrictions of meter and 
rhyme in Arabic poetry limited qur'anic 
borrowing quantitatively and qualitatively. 
In comparison with prose writers, who 
could introduce their borrowed materials 
by statements indicating their source (e.g. 
"as God, may he be exalted, said in his 
book..."), cite verbatim entire djias no mat- 
ter how long, and relate in detail entire 
qur'anic narratives, poets had to limit the 
number of ayas on which they could draw, 
cut them short except in rare instances, 
depend heavily on various techniques of 
reformulation and give precedence to allu- 
sion and reference over citation and lei- 
surely tracing. Consequently, while a prose 
piece could have most of its sentences 

drawn from qur'anic materials, like many 
of the sermons of Ibn Nubata 
(d. 374/984; see Canard, Ibn Nubata), a 
poem comprised entirely of qur'anic 
references is considered a noticeable 
aberration and could be judged flatly as 
"bad" (Tha'alibi, Iqtibas, ii, 57). 

Another factor in the greater latitude of 
Arabic prose in qur'anic borrowing is that, 
at the rise of Islam, it had shallow roots in 
the pre-Islamic literary tradition — in 
contrast with poetry, which was deeply 
entrenched in that tradition: the highly 
stylized, complex, and sophisticated poetic 
form, the ode (qaslda), had an extremely 
important social function as it reflected the 
Arabs' environment, activities, beliefs, and 
value system. Thus, when the Qtir'an 
became a part of the Arabs' new world, 
prose fell almost completely under its spell. 
Poetry resisted — despite the Qur'an's 
hostile attitude towards pagan poets and 
poetry (see p_ 26:224-6). This tension is par- 
ticularly notable since the Qtir'an did not 
offer itself as a poetic work to replace the 
old poetic tradition but was rather an inim- 
itable divine revelation (see Q_ 21:5; 37:36-7; 
52:30-1; 69:40-1). As a result, the ode as a 
mono-rhymed, dual hemstitched form and 
segmented structure survived and re- 
mained, with variations, the basic form of 
poetic expression in Arabic literature until 
modern times, allowing the Qtir'an to 
influence its diction, themes, powerful 
images, motifs and symbols. Prose, on the 
other hand, allowed the Qtir'an to influ- 
ence, in addition to the above, its very form 
and structure, style and rhythm, even to 
the point of creating new genres in it. 

In the area of form, the Qtir'an generally 
influenced Arabic literary prose, contrary 
to poetry. Like each of the Qur'an's suras, 
a typical prose piece would begin with the 
Qur'an-based formula "in the name of 
God, the merciful, the compassionate," 
called the basmala (q.v.); indeed, prose 


pieces lacking the basmala are considered 
batra', "clipped" or "docked," indicating 
imperfection. In epistolary prose — the 
most pervasive genre in Arabic literature 
until the modern period — in particular, 
this beginning is often followed, after 
naming the sender and the addressee, by 
another Qur'an-based formula "I praise 
[before you] God other than whom there is 
no god," as attested from the first/seventh 
century in the papyri and elsewhere (see 
e.g. Becker, Papyri, 58, 62, 68, 92, 96, 100). 
Still another qur'anic formula is found at 
the ends of most letters: "peace be upon 
you," or briefly "peace." In a way, perhaps 
not unlike qur'anic suras, Arabic prose dis- 
played a great deal of formal variety within 
a recognizable unity. Genres as diverse as 
letters, treatises, testaments, sermons, invo- 
cations, and incantations exist, and works 
from each of these genres vary in length 
and complexity. Yet, each would be recog- 
nizable as a letter, treatise, testament, etc. 
Perhaps this is what explains a rather pecu- 
liar phenomenon in Arabic literary prose, 
namely that a piece of it — usually a short 
one — would be composed exclusively of 
one or more qur'anic verses. 

On the level of structure, prose pieces 
often betray specific qur'anic influence in 
that they build upon a qur'anic concept, 
phrase, or word and allow those elements 
to dictate their structure. One example is 
the letters or sermons which begin with the 
qur'anic formula al-hamdu li-llah (thanks/ 
praise be to God) or, less frequently, the 
almost synonymous and equally qur'anic 
subhana llah (see glorification of god; 
laudation). Such prose pieces tend to be 
cyclical in structure since each section (or 
cycle) begins with the same formula, fol- 
lowed by what God is being praised for 
(see 'Abbas, 'Abd al-Hamid, 161-2; al-Qadl, 
The impact, 295-6). This kind of writing 
was developed in the early second/eighth 
century and was so distinct and potent that 

it was given the name tahmid (te deum) 
genre. Similarly, letters or testaments 
which begin with the qur'anic concept 
usika bi-taqwd llah, "I counsel you to fear 
God," tend to have a spiral structure, in 
the sense that they are composed of suc- 
cessive pieces of advice that end only when 
the author has completed his treatment of 
the virtues he wishes to advocate (see 
forbidding). A third example consists of 
letters or proclamations that begin with 
qur'anic concepts and phraseology to the 
effect that God chose Islam to be his reli- 
gion. Such prose pieces normally have a 
carefully constructed three-part "sequen- 
tial" structure, the first of which discusses 
pre-Muhammadan human history, the sec- 
ond the mission of Muhammad, while the 
third discusses the main topic of the piece. 

Stylistically, the Quran greatly influenced 
Arabic prose. It is conceivable that one of 
the most conspicuous features of Arabic 
prose, parallelism ftzdiwdj), i.e. repeating 
one meaning in two or more phrases, goes 
back to qur'anic influence. More certainly, 
the fairly frequent tendency of prose writ- 
ers to use antithetical pairing (tadadd) has 
its origin in the style of the Qur'an, where 
opposites are often juxtaposed (e.g. good/ 
evil; believers/non-believers). Probably 
even rhymed prose (saj'J, whose use flour- 
ished in mid- and late medieval times but 
was never completely absent from prose in 
other periods, had its roots in the Qur'an's 
style, too (see Heinrichs and Ben Abdes- 
selem, Sadj', 734-6). This matter is some- 
what problematic since saj' was condemned 
by the Prophet. Because, however, this con- 
demnation is linked to the utterances of 
the pre-Islamic pagan soothsayers (q.v.; 
kuhhdn) and is thus deemed unsuitable for 
supplication (du'a'; see Wensinck, Concord- 
ance, ii, 431), its use outside this sphere was 
taken, in varying degrees, to be acceptable. 
Such was especially the case as the Qur'an, 


by example, rendered it implicitly permissi- 
ble. All of the stylistic features that have 
been mentioned serve the musical cadence 
of sentences, an area in which the Qur'an 
excelled, particularly at the ends of ayas. 
And here, again, Arabic prose followed in 
the footsteps of the Qur'an, making musi- 
cal cadence a stylistic value after which it 
constantly strives. 

Finally, there are some genres of prose 
whose very existence would have been 
inconceivable had the Qur'an not been 
their guiding light, in particular that of the 
sermon, which is almost entirely depen- 
dent on qur'anic ideas, formulations and 
stories of ancient peoples (see genera- 
tions). On another level, there are two 
Arabic literary works whose foundational 
principle lies deep in the qur'anic vision of 
the day of judgment and the fate of people 
in heaven or hell (see HELL and hellfire); 
without this vision they could not have 
been written. These are Ibn Shuhayd's 
(d. 393/1003) al-Tawabi' wa-l-zawabi' and 
al-Ma'arrl's (d. 449/1057) Risdlat al-ghufran, 
both of which consist of imaginary jour- 
neys undertaken by their respective 
authors to the afterworld where they 
encounter litterateurs and scholars and ask 
them about their salvation or about their 
condemnation to hellfire, in addition to 
discussing with them matters of art, lan- 
guage and literature. Al-Ma'arri's other 
work, al-Fusul wa-l-ghayat, must also be 
mentioned among the works whose raison 
d'etre is the Qur'an. This book, whose very 
title, "The book of paragraphs and end- 
ings composed as an analogy of the verses 
and suras [of the Qur'an]," speaks of its 
indebtedness to the Qur'an, is an ascetical 
piety work devoted to the praise of God 
and the poet's expression of fear of him 
and hope in his forgiveness (q.v.). It is actu- 
ally written as an imitation of the styles of 
the Qur'an. Last but not least, no study of 
the Qur'an in Arabic literature is complete 

without a pause at the Yemeni second/ 
eighth-century prose writer mentioned 
above, Bishr b. Abi Kubar al-Balawi, who 
was "famous for stealing/appropriating the 
Qur'an" (Hamdani, Sifat, 86). Although 
only seventeen of his letters have survived, 
it is clear that the Qur'an is the overpower- 
ing force behind them, driving them in 
diction, style, images, symbols, word-, 
phrase- and sentence-order, and in both 
their internal and external structures. 
Indeed the Qur'an governs the totality of 
each letter in its artistic imagination and 
internal movements, as well as its details. 
Indeed, at the hands of al-Balawi, the use 
of the Qur'an in literature became an art 
unto itself. 

Qur'an in Persian literature 
The Muslim conquest of Persia in the 
first/seventh century led to the rise of a 
new literature, produced in Arabic by the 
converts to Islam. But the Pahlavi literary 
tradition continued to exist and prosper. 
The attempt of Firdawsl (d. 411/1020) to 
avoid the use of Arabic words in his Shah- 
ndma, a poetical recounting of Sasanian 
history down to the Muslim conquest of 
Iran, represents the will to assert the inde- 
pendence of the native literary tradition 
rather than the rejection of Arabic litera- 
ture — with the Qur'an at its center — as 
an alien tradition. Nizam! (d. 605/1209) in 
his romance Haft paykar, "Seven beauties," 
deals with a similar theme — the life-story 
of the Sasanian ruler Bahrain Gur — but 
his work, though it draws heavily on that 
of Firdawsl, contains many references and 
allusions to the Qur'an. 

The Qur'an influenced Persian literature 
in several ways. The qur'anic literary fea- 
ture of saj', "rhymed prose," influenced not 
only the stylized prefaces and introductions 
that the authors wrote for their works but, 
in varying degrees, the general style of 
authors, as well. The literary genre known 


as "mirrors for princes" came to include a 
treatment of qur'anic themes and charac- 
ters. Since study and knowledge of the 
Qur'an were an important part of classical 
Persian culture in the Islamic period and 
since this culture was shared between the 
secular and religious sectors of society, the 
ability, in conversation and writing, to cite 
appropriately from the Qur'an and to rec- 
ognize such citations came to be viewed 
as a mark of sound general education. 
Reference to the Qur'an can be expected 
to occur in almost all genres of litera- 
ture — and in almost any writer's work. 
Abu Nasr Ahmad b. Mansur Asadi 
(d. before 423/1041) invented the munagara 
("debate") poem (see debate and disput- 
ation). In one such poem (Browne, Literary 
history, ii, 150-2), Night and Day each claim 
to be superior to the other, both presenting 
a series of arguments, many of them based 
on the Qur'an. Night argues, for example, 
that it was at night that Muhammad 
departed for his heavenly journey (p_ 17:1) 
and that it is the Night of Power (q.v; laylat 
al-qadr), that, in the Qur'an, is deemed bet- 
ter than a thousand months (q.v.; o_ 97:3). 
Day retorts that fasting (q.v.) is observed 
during the day (o_ 2:187), that the Friday 
prayer (q.v.) is performed during the day 
(o 62:9) and that resurrection (q.v.) will 
occur at daytime. 'Umar al-Khayyam 
(d. before 530/1135) is not a particularly 
religious writer. Yet, in one of his quatrains 
(Rubaiyyat, 210, no. 379), he justifies wine- 
drinking by claiming to have found in the 
Qur'an a "luminous verse" on wine 
(bar-gird-i paydla dyafi rawshan ast), and, in 
another (ibid., no. 381), compares the wine- 
cup to Noah's ark (q.v.), saying that it will 
save one from the storm of sorrow [tufan-i 
gham, see JOY AND misery). To 'Umar 
al-Khayyam is also attributed a satirical 
quatrain, quoted by Browne (Literary history, 
ii, 254), in which the apparently cryptic bal 

hum is, as Browne explains (ibid., n. 2), a 
reference to q 7:179 (vs. 178 in Browne) and 
Q_ 25:46 (vs. 44 in Browne), a qur'anic com- 
ment to the effect that a certain type of 
people are "like animals, or rather even 
more misguided." 

It is, however, in Persian mystical poetry 
that the influence of the Qur'an, in terms 
of both substance and language, is most 
evident. The Mantiq al-tayr of Farld al-Dln 
'Attar (513-627/1119-1230) takes its name 
from o_ 27:16 and the birds of the story are 
guided in their search for their king, 
Simurgh, by the wise hoopoe — the bird 
mentioned in the same sura (p_ 27:20; 'Attar 
makes use of the unmistakable wordplay 
on the hoopoe's Arabic name, hudhud, and 
the qur'anic concept of huda, "guidance"). 
Sa'di's MajdlisA panjgdna, "Five sessions," 
are studded with qur'anic quotations. 
Hafiz (d. 791 or 792/1389 or 1390), address- 
ing himself, swears "by the Qur'an you 
have preserved in your breast" to support 
his claim of having written exquisite 
poetry (Diwan, 280). Indeed, his poetry 
contains not only easily identifiable 
qur'anic phrases but also subtle allusions to 
qur'anic events and characters. Gar man 
dluda ddmanam chi 'ajab/hama 'dlam gawdh-i 
'ismat-i u'st, "What is the wonder if my 
hem is soiled [i.e. if I am seen to be 
guilty] — the whole world bears witness to 
his/her innocence!" (ibid., 36) is a verse 
that is clear in itself but is also a powerful 
appropriation of a qur'anic incident: in 
Q_ 12, the innocent Joseph is framed and 
Potiphar's wife, Joseph's would-be seducer, 
is allowed to go scot-free. The allusion 
enables Hafiz to imbue his verse with the 
ironic overtones present in the qur'anic 
narration of the incident. 

But it is, perhaps, Jalal al-Dln Rumi's 
poetry that offers the most remarkable 
instance of the influence of the Qur'an on 
Persian literature. Nicholson's index (fihrist) 

12 L' 3 


of the qur'anic verses that have been cited 
by Rumi in his Mathnawi gives some idea 
of the Qur'an's influence [Mathnawi, iv, 
391-408). It is, however, not exhaustive, for 
Rumi not only cites actual phrases and 
verses from the Qur'an but also reworks 
them, gives a Persian rendition of them 
and makes subtle allusions to qur'anic 
themes or characters. In the First Book 
(daftarj of the Mathnawi alone there are 
about two hundred explicit or implicit ref- 
erences to the Qur'an, only a few of which 
we will note here. Emphasizing the need to 
surrender to God's will, Rumi says: ham-chu 
Ismd'il pishash sar bi-nih, "Lay down your 
head before [i.e. obey] God like Ishmael 
(q.v.)" (who willingly offered to be sacri- 
ficed by Abraham at God's behest; Math- 
nawi, i, 8; see o_ 37:102-3). In one of the 
stories, the hare succeeds in ensnaring the 
mighty lion and then rushes off to inform 
the other animals: sui nakhchiran dawid an 
shir-gir/ ka'bshiru yd qawmu idhja'a l-bashir, 
"That lion-catcher ran off to the animals, 
saying, 'Good news (q.v.) for you, my 
people, for one bearing good tidings has 
come' " [Mathnawi, i, 83). Abshiru is the 
greeting the people of heaven will receive 
(O. 4 i: 3°)> whereas idhja'a l-bashiru evokes 
o_ 12:96, wherein a harbinger informs 
Jacob (q.v.) in Canaan of the safety and 
well-being of his son Joseph in Egypt. 
Stressing the importance of listening over 
speaking, Rumi first says that hearing is the 
proper path to speech and then writes an 
Arabic couplet, the first hemistich of which 
[udkhulu l-abydta min abwabiha/wa-tlubu 
l-aghrddaji asbabihd, "Enter houses by the 
door, and seek goals using the means 
proper to them") is a slightly modified ver- 
sion of o_ 2:189, a verse criticizing certain 
pre-Islamic pilgrimage (q.v.) practices. 
Again, immortality is to be sought only 
through self-loss in God: kullu shay 'in halikun 
juz wajh-i u/chiin na\ dar wajh-i u hastimaju, 

"Everything is going to perish except his 
countenance; if you are not before his 
countenance, do not seek to have exist- 
ence," a line clearly reliant on o_ 28:88 (see 
FACE OF god). Rumi keeps bringing his 
readers back to the Qur'an, ensuring that 
their contact with the Qur'an, whether on 
the level of thought or of language, is 
never broken. Not without reason did the 
poet 'Abd al-Rahman JamI (d. 898-9/1492) 
call the Mathnawi the Qur'an in Pahlavi. 

Qur'an in Urdu literature 
Compared with Persian, Urdu is a young 
language, whose proper literary career did 
not start until the early eighteenth century. 
While it continued the historical legacy 
of the Perso-Arabic Islamic culture in 
India — it succeeded Persian as the court 
language of Mughal India — Urdu devel- 
oped under certain peculiar circumstances. 
Unlike Persian, Urdu was strongly influ- 
enced in its formative phase by writings 
with a religious and moral orientation. In 
fact, the history of the development of 
Urdu as a language is closely linked with 
the history of Islamic reformism in India. 
Some of the figures in this broad reform 
movement whose writings contributed to 
the growth of Urdu as a literary language 
are the first translators of the Qur'an into 
Urdu, Shah Raff al-Dln (1750-1818) and 
Shah Abd al-Qadir (1753-1813), who were 
sons of Shah Wall Allah al-DihlawI (1703- 
73); Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1837-98), the 
founder of the Aligarh Movement; Nazlr 
Ahmad (1831-1912), author of several edify- 
ing novels (one of these, Tawbatu 'n-nasuh, 
takes its title from Q_ 66:8); and Altaf 
Husayn Hall (1837-1914), author of the 
powerful poem Rise and ebb of Islam. The 
writings of these authors reflect their 
preoccupation with Islamic, including 
qur'anic, themes and motifs. There are, of 
course, writers in whose works such themes 



and motifs receive a deliberately pro- 
nounced emphasis, as in the poetry of the 
eighteenth-century mystic Khwaja Mir 
Dard (1721-1785), who is preoccupied with 
the transience of worldly existence and in 
the masterly prose of the twentieth-century 
reformist Abu 1-Kalam Azad, who fre- 
quently cites qur'anic verses to support his 
arguments, inviting Muslims to base their 
thought and action on the Quran. 

References and allusions to the Qur'an 
will, however, be encountered in all man- 
ner of Urdu literature. In Mir Hasan's 
(d. 1786) Sihru l-baydn, "The spellbinding 
story," one of the best known of the Urdu 
mathnavuis, the childless king is dissuaded 
from becoming a hermit by his courtiers 
who remind him of the qur'anic injunction 
of la taqnatu, "Do not despair" (o 39:53). In 
a qasida, Sawda showers praise on a ruler, 
saying that, compared with him, even 
Solomon would be dwarfed to an ant — an 
allusion to the story of Solomon and the 
ants in o_ 27:18-9 (see animal life). In a 
ghazal, Ibrahim Dhawq (1790-1854) says: 
"He who is not found to be a world-loving 
dog (q.v.) — the like of him will not be 
found among angels," which recalls 
p_ 7 :i 76- In another verse, he says that kill- 
ing a tiger, lion or python is not as great a 
feat as is the killing of the nafs-i ammara (the 
baser self that impels one to evil), to which 
allusion is made in Q_ 12:53. In his poetry, 
Ghalib (d. 1869) makes a number of allu- 
sions to the Qur'an, most of them playful. 
In one place (Diwan, 49), he says that one 
like him would have withstood the impact 
of the divine epiphany much better than 
Moses (according to o_ 7:143, Moses fell 
down unconscious when, at his demand, 
God manifested himself on Mount Sinai; 
see sinai), commenting wryly that a wine- 
drinker should be served only as much 
wine as he can take without losing his 
senses. He compares his dejection-filled 

heart to Joseph's dungeon — a reference to 
Q_ 12 (ibid., g). One of his verses reads 
(ibid., 188): waraq tamam hu'a awr madh baqi 
hai/sajina chdhi'e is bahr-i be-kardn ke li'e, 
"The sheet of paper is filled up, but there 
is still more praise to offer: a ship is needed 
to cross this boundless sea." This is a possi- 
ble allusion to Q_ 31:27, according to which 
God could not be praised enough even if 
all the trees in the world were to become 
pens and all the seas were to become ink 
a few verses Ghalib cites portions of 
qur'anic verses verbatim (e.g. ibid., 74, 214). 

It is, however, Muhammad Iqbal's 
(d. 1938) poetry that bears the deepest 
imprint of the Qur'an; this is true of 
Iqbal's Persian as well as his Urdu poetry, 
but only the latter will be discussed here. 
Many of his verses appear to be adapta- 
tions of qur'anic verses. For example, Iqbal 
describes some of the qualities of a true 
Muslim in the following words (Kulliyydt, 
507): ho halqah-iydrdn to baresham ki tarah 
narm / 'razjn-i haq-o-bdtil ho tofawldd hai 
mu'min, "In the company of friends the 
believer is soft like silk (q.v.), but in the 
clash of truth and falsehood he is like 
steel." This instantly brings to mind 
Q_ 48:29. Alluding to p_ 21:68-9, according 
to which Abraham was thrown into the fire 
by the king of his time (called Nimrod 
[q.v.] by tradition), Iqbal points to the 
modern challenges to Islam, asking a 
question (ibid., 257): "Again there is a fire, 
there is Abraham's offspring, and Nimrod, 
tool/Is all of this meant to put someone 
to the test?" In a poem about Khizr (Ar. 
Khidr; the Islamic literary tradition gives 
this name to the man, referred to in 
Q_ 18:65, who was sent by God to initiate 
Moses into some of the mysteries of the 
divine administration of the universe; see 
khadir/khidr), Iqbal writes {Kulliyydt, 256): 
kashti-e miskm-o jdn-i pdk-o diwdr-iyatim/ 



'ilm-i Musa bhihai ten samne hayrat-jirosh, 
"The poor man's boat, the pure soul (q.v.), 
and the orphan's (see orphans) wall! Even 
Moses' knowledge suffers from bewilder- 
ment before you." Here, the first hemis- 
tich, which consists of three two-word 
phrases, makes a compact reference to the 
three uncommon incidents which are nar- 
rated in o_ 18:71-82, and which a surprised 
Moses witnessed in the company of Khizr. 
Iqbal borrows or adapts from the Qur'an a 
large number of terms and phrases, but 
these terms and phrases in his works are 
not, as they might have been in another 
writer's, embellishments, but are rather es- 
sential instruments of his thought. A full 
study of the impact of the Qur'an on 
Iqbal's poetry is yet to be made. 

Qur'an in Punjabi literature 
Punjabi Sufi literature shows definite signs 
of the influence of the Qur'an. Addressing 
a wide but illiterate audience and using 
earthy language while drawing on scenes 
and events of daily life, Muslim mystics 
stress the need to worship God with a pure 
heart, live a simple, honest life, seek a wis- 
dom higher than that found in dry books, 
shun empty ritualism (see ritual and the 
qur'an), abandon pride, greed and hypoc- 
risy, and remember death and the day of 
judgment. These are broad Islamic themes 
but, in many instances, they have a definite 
qur'anic basis, as a study of the works of 
major Sufi poets will show. In a poem, 
Bullhe Shah (d. 1 172/1758) wonders why 
people are quarreling over God when God 
is closer to them than their jugular vein, a 
clear reference to Q_ 50:16 (see artery and 
vein). In more than one place, Bullhe Shah 
says that all one needs to study is alif, the 
first letter of the Arabic alphabet and the 
first letter of the divine name, Allah. This is 
a simple but dramatic way of highlighting 
the centrality of the doctrine of God in the 

Qur'an — Allah being, incidentally, the 
noun with the highest frequency in the 
Qur'an. Implying that advice and guidance 
will be lost on a confirmed sinner, Sultan 
Bahu (d. 1103/1691) says that rain will not 
benefit a stony heart, which reminds one of 
Q_ 2:264; and, again, that a stone is better 
than a heart that is forgetful of God, an 
obvious reference to Q_ 2:74. Baba Farld 
(569-665/1 173-1266) says that one who has 
been misled by Satan will not listen even if 
words of wisdom and good counsel were 
shouted at him — a statement that brings 
to mind Q_ 2:17 (possibly also o 7:175 and 
58:19). Shah Husayn's (d. 1002/1593) fre- 
quent references to the transient nature of 
the world and of worldly pleasures are 
qur'anic in their spirit. In a number of 
instances, Punjabi Sufi poets cite short 
phrases from the Qur'an, either in the 
original Arabic or in translation. A careful 
reader of these poets, especially of Sultan 
Bahu, cannot fail to note the influence of 
the Qur'an — both at the level of theme 
and at the level of language — on this 

Qur'an in Malay literature 
Islam arrived in the Malay world in the 
fourteenth century c.E. but, notwithstand- 
ing the works of a writer like the mystic 
Hamza Fansurl (sixteenth-seventeenth 
centuries), Malay language and literature 
cannot be said to have been influenced by 
Islam or the Qur'an in the same way as 
were some of the other Muslim languages 
and literatures. Like Malay society, Malay 
literature emphasizes uniformity and con- 
ventionality and tends to view assertion of 
individualism or originality and expression 
of spontaneous feeling as wayward and 
disruptive (anonymity of authorship is typ- 
ical of classical Malay literature). This 
emphasis limited the stock of literary 
themes and devices available to a writer, 



who was further limited by the social con- 
text of this literature. As essentially a pal- 
ace literature, a literature of patronage, 
Malay writers depicted mostly the lives 
and exploits of rulers and aristocrats. The 
emphasis on conventionality also restricted 
the scope of foreign literary influence. 
Accordingly, classical Malay literature, 
even when it was influenced by Islam, 
largely retained its pre-Islamic thematic 
repertoire and structural framework. Thus, 
the well-known and predominant genre of 
prose romance called hikayat continued to 
deal with the themes of the ancient Hindu 
epics. Even when heroes from Muslim his- 
tory were introduced or substituted in sto- 
ries, they were usually cast in the roles of 
familiar pre-Islamic figures, the hikayat gen- 
erally receiving only an Islamic varnishing. 
But instances of Islamic or qur'anic influ- 
ence on hikayat literature do exist, as sug- 
gested by such titles as Hikayat Iblis and 
Hikayat nabi Yusuf, and — as clearly and sig- 
nificantly illustrated in the Hikayat maharaja 
'All — by the employment of qur'anic 
terms, phrases and invocatory expressions 
(see exhortations), by the treatment of 
such qur'anic themes as God's ability to 
accomplish his purposes against all odds 
and the need for human beings to put their 
trust in God (see TRUST AND patience) and 
by the adaptive use of such qur'anic stories 
as that of the prophet David (q.v.) and his 
wise son Solomon (o_ 21:78-9) or that of 
Jesus' miraculous power to revive the dead 

(a 3 : 49)- 

There is one other, and rather peculiar, 
way in which the Qur'an influenced Malay 
literature. Classical Malay written litera- 
ture, which no less than Malay oral litera- 
ture was meant to be heard rather than 
read, acquired certain qualities associated 
with oral literature. Since Malay literature, 
in general, had to be chanted, the tradi- 
tion of Qur'an recitation, according to 

Sweeney (Authors and audiences, 32), gave a 
"definite Islamic flavor to the chant." 

Wadad Kadi (al-Qadl) and 
Mustansir Mir 

Qur'an as literature. 

Primary: BaqillanI, Ijaz; Ibn C^ayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Muhammad b. Abu Bakr, al-Fawd'id 
al-mushawwiqa ild c ulum al-Qur'an wa-Hlm al-baydn, 
Beirut n.d.; A. A. Islahl, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 8 vols., 
Lahore 1967-80; JurjanT, Dald'il, ed. M.M. Sha- 
kir, Cairo 1984; Zarkashl, Burhan, ed. M. Abu 
1-Fadl Ibrahim. 

Secondary: M. Abu Zahra, al-Qur'dn. Al-mujiza 
l-hibra, Cairo [1390/1970]; I. Boullata (ed.), 
Literary structures of religious meaning in the Quran, 
Richmond, Surrey 2000; A.H.Johns, The 
qur'anic presentation of the Joseph story. 
Naturalistic or formulaic language? in Hawting 
and Shareef, Approaches, 37-70; M. Mir, The qur- 
'anic story of Joseph. Plot, themes, and charac- 
ters, in MW76 (1986), 1-15; A. Neuwirth, Studien 
zur Komposition der mekkanischen Suren, Berlin/New 
York 1981; S. Qutb, al-TaswIr al-fannl fl 1-Qur'an, 
2 parts, in al-Muqtataf '93 (1939), 205-n; 313-8; 
N. Robinson, Discovering the Qur'an. A contemporary 
approach to a veiled text, London 1996; M. Sells, 
Sound, spirit, and gender in surat al-qadr, \n JAOS 
in (1991), 239-59; Watt-Bell, Introduction; M. Zah- 
niser, Major transitions and thematic borders in 
two long suras. Al-baqara and al-nisa', in I. Boul- 
lata (ed.), Literary structures of religious meaning in the 
Qur'an, Richmond, Surrey 2000, 26-55. 
Qur'an in literature. 
(ht> an in Arabic literature. 

Primary: BalawT, see below, al-C^adi, Bishr ibn Abi 
Kubar; al-Hamdanl, Abu Muhammad al-Hasan 
b. Ahmad, Sifatjazirat al-'arab, ed. M. al-Akwa ! 
al-HawalT, Riyadh 1974; Ibn al-Nadmi, Fihrist; 
Ibn al-Nadnn-Dodge; Ibn al-Sayrafl, Abu 
1-Qasim All b. Munjib, Intiza'at al-Qur'an al-'azim 
(ms.); al-C^alqashandi, Abu 1-Abbas Ahmad b. 
All, Subh al-a'shdfi sind'at al-inshd, offset edition 
of the first edition, 14 vols., Cairo n.d.; SuyutI, 
Itqan; id., Raf al-libds wa-kashf al-iltibdsji darb al- 
mathal min al-Qur'an wa-l-iqtibds, ed. S.M. al- 
Lahham, Beirut 1999 (no. 19 of Rasd'il al-Suyutt; 
this work contains the positions of a number of 
classical authors, such as al-Ghazafl and al- 
NawawT, as well as a discussion of the practices 
of the Companions); al-TawhldT, Abu Hayyan 
All b. Muhammad, al-Basd'ir wa-l-dhakhd'ir, ed. 
W. al-Qadl, 10 vols., Beirut 1988; Tha'alibl, 
Iqtibds; Zarkashl, Burhdn, Cairo 1957. 



Secondary: I. 'Abbas, Abd al-Hamid ibn Yahya al- 
katib wa-ma tabaqqa min rasa'ilihi wa-rasa'il Sdlim 
Abi l-'Ala\ Amman 1988; C.H. Becker, Papyri 
Scott- Reinhardt I, Heidelberg 1906; M. Canard, 
Ibn Nnbata, in El 3 , iii, 900; T. Fahd, W. Hein- 
richs and A. Ben Abdessalam, Sadj ( , in ei 3 , viii, 
732-9, esp. pp. 734-6; C. Gilliot, Un florilege 
coraniqne. Le Iqtibas min al-Qur'an de Abu 
Mansnr al-TValibl, in Arabica 47 (2000), 488-500; 
I. Jomaih, The use of the Quran in political argument. 
A study of early Islamic parties (35-86 a. h./ 656-J05 
a.d.), Ph.D. diss., Los Angeles 1988; M.R. Khan, 
Vom Einfiuss des Qurans auf die arabische Dichtung, 
Leipzig 1938; W. al-Qadl, Bishr ibn Abi Kubar al- 
Balawi. Namudhaj min al-nathr alfanni al-mubakkirfi 
l-Taman, Beirut 1985; id., The impact of the 
Qur'an on the epistolography of ( Abd al-Hamid, 
in Hawting and Shareef, Approaches, 285-313; id., 
The limitations of qur ! anic usage in early Arabic 
poetry. The example of a Kharijite poem, in 
W. Heinrichs and G. Schoeler (eds.), Festschrift 
Ewatd Wagner zum 65. Gerburtstag, 2 vols., Beirut/ 
Wiesbaden 1994, ii, 162-81; D.B. Macdonald/ 
S.A. Bonebakker, Iktibas, in EI 3 : iii, 1092-3 (and 
see bibliography for additional sources on rheto- 
ric); A. Matar, Lafitat — 1, London 1987; We 11- 
sinck, Concordance; A.M. Znbaidi, The impact of 
the Qur'an and hadfth on medieval Arabic litera- 
ture, in A.F.L. Beeston et al., Arabic literature to the 
end of the Umayyad period, Cambridge 1983, 322-43. 
Qur'an in Persian literature. 
Primary: "Attar, Farld al-Dln, Alantiqu'tayr 
[Mantiq al-tayr], Teheran [?] 1988; Hafiz, Diwan 
of Hafiz, erf - M- Qazwlnl and Q. GhanT, [USA] 
1986; Jalal al-Dln RumT, Mathnawi-ma'nawT, ed. 
R. Nicholson, 4 vols., Teheran 1364; Sa c di, 
Kulliyyat-i najis, 4th printing, [Iran], 1364; 
NizamT, Haft pay kar. A medieval Persian romance, 
tran. J.S. Meisami, Oxford 1995; Umar al- 
Khayyam, The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam, trans- 
lated into English quatrains by Mehdi Nako- 
steen, with corresponding Persian quatrains in 
translator's calligraphy, Boulder, CO 1973. 
Secondary: E.G. A. Browne, Literary history oj 
Persia, 4 vols., Cambridge, UK 1902-21; Iran- 
books reprint, 1997; J. TP. de Bruijn, Persian Sufi 
poetry. An introduction to the mystical use of classical 
Persian poems, Richmond, Surrey 1997. 
Qur'an in Urdu literature. 

Ghalib, Diwan-i Ghalib, ed. HamT ( All Khan, 
Lahore 1995; HarunuV-Rashid, Urdu adab awr 
islam, 2 vols., Lahore 1968-70; Muhammad Iqbal, 
Kulliyyat-i Iqbdl — Urdu, Lahore 1973; D.J. 
Matthews, C. Shackle and Shahrukh Husain, 
Urdu literature, London 1985. 
Qur'an in Punjabi literature. 
Maqbul Anvar Da'udi (ed.), Abyat-i Baku, Lahore 

n.d.; id. (ed.), Bullhe Shah kehnde nen, Lahore 
[1987]; id. (ed.), Kaldm Babd Farid shakar ganj, 
Lahore [1987]; id. (ed.), Kihyd Shah Husayn nen, 
Lahore [1987]; M. Mir, Teachings of two Pun- 
jabi poets, in D.S. Lopez Jr. (ed.), Indian religions in 
practice, Princeton 1995, 518-29. 
Qj/rdn in Ala lay literature. 

A. Bausani, Notes on the structure of the classical 
Alalay hikayat, trans, (from It.) Lode Brakel, 
Melbourne 1979; A. Sweeney, Authors and audiences 
in traditional Malay literature, Berkeley 1980. 

Liturgical Calendar see festivals . 


Load or Burden 

Something carried or borne, often with 
difficulty. The concept of load or burden 
appears in the Qur'an approximately fifty 
times, in several forms, conveying a range 
of implications that can be classified as de- 
scriptive, metaphorical (see metaphor), 
and morally didactic. 

As a term of physical description, vari- 
ants of the radical h-m-l frequently depict 
the load borne by animals such as cattle, 
donkeys and camels (q_ 12:72; 16:7; 62:5; see 
camel; animal life); as the cargo aboard 
ships (q.v.; Q_ 23:22; 40:80) or related to nat- 
ural elements such as clouds laden with 
rain (q_ 51:2; see air and wind; nature 
as signs). It also applies, usually as the 
verbal noun haml, to the bearing of chil- 
dren (q.v.; p_ 7:189; 22:2; 65:6; see also 


OF life). Its usages, however, are not re- 
stricted to expressly material burdens, as, 
for example, angels (see angel) are de- 
scribed as supporting the weight of the 
heavenly throne (o_ 40:7; 69:17; see throne 
of god). 

As a metaphor, the Qur'an may specify 
load or burden as a generalized onus, the 
significance of which depends on the 



surrounding context. It alludes to the bur- 
dens (awzar) of war (q.v.; Q 47:4) or it con- 
trasts two men, one who follows the 
straight path (see path or way) while the 
other is a burden (kail) upon his master 
(q 16:76; see slaves and slavery; 
clients and clientage). The term isr 
which occurs more rarely, refers at one 
point to the load placed by God upon 
those who accept his covenant (q.v; Q 3:81) 
and elsewhere to the load that the Prophet 
will lift as a yoke, to relieve those who heed 
his message (q 7:157). Another passage 
mentions the earth (q.v.) "throwing out its 
burdens" (athqal, Q 99:2), an apocalyptic 
image which al-BaydawT (d. ca. 700/1301; 
Anwar, ad loc.) interprets as the tombs 
yielding up their dead (see death and the 
dead; apocalypse). Likewise, the Qur'an 
speaks of God opening up the breast (see 
heart) of Muhammad and "removing 
your burden which was breaking your 
back" (q 94:2-3) which appears to indicate 
the anxious and vulnerable circumstances 
Muhammad experienced at the outset of 
his mission in Mecca (q.v; see also 
opposition to muhammad). 

Finally, load or burden arises in a number 
of similar phrases that reflect a key teach- 
ing of the Qur'an regarding the funda- 
mental responsibility of each individual for 
his or her own moral and religious growth 
and integrity (see ethics and the 
qur'an). The line "no one who carries a 
burden bears the load of another" occurs 
with slight variation six times (q 6:164; 
I7 :i 5; 24 : 54; 35 :i 8; 397; 53 : 38) and in every 
instance it is accompanied by allusions, di- 
rect or indirect, to the day of judgment 
(see last judgment). The Jalalayn consist- 
ently offer a succinct gloss for "burden" 
(wazira) in commenting on these passages, 
equating it with atham or dhunub, meaning 
sins or faults (see SIN, MAJOR AND minor). 
Likewise, they and other commentators 
emphasize the reference to the account- 

ability of each single individual before 
God in the acquisition of eternal reward or 
punishment (see exegesis of the qur'an: 
classical and medieval; reward and 
punishment; eternity). 

One instructive variant on this theme re- 
counts an incident when disbelievers called 
upon believers (see belief and unbelief): 
"Follow our way; we shall carry the burden 
of your sins." In response, the Qur'an not 
only refutes the fallacy of this presumption 
on the part of the disbelievers but adds 
that those who lead others astray (q.v.) by 
such claims "will carry their own loads and 
other loads besides their own" (q 29:12-3). 
This passage offers a qualification of the 
statements that limit the moral responsibil- 
ity of individuals to their own behavior by 
indicating that leading others astray by 
offering to bear their burdens, will reap a 
penalty of the sort that renders these de- 
ceivers an extra measure of culpability in 
much the fashion that they themselves had 

Al-Tabarl (d. 310/923) notes that this 
doctrine of individual moral accountability 
echoes the Prophet's recognition of the 
consequences of personal freedom in 
moral terms (see freedom and predesti- 
nation), just as his statement with regard 
to belief was formulated in his famous final 
declaration: "You have your religion and I 
have my religion" (q 109:6; see faith; 
religious pluralism and the qur'an). 
A number of hadlths (see hadith AND THE 
qur'an) elaborate upon these verses with 
accounts of a surprise encounter after 
one's death at which each individual soul 
will be confronted by a set of vivid forms, 
one beautiful and the other repulsive, 
which will identify themselves as the good 
and evil deeds (q.v.) performed during that 
person's lifetime (see also GOOD deeds; 
good and evil; record of human 

More recent schools of interpretation, 


such as those represented in the twentieth 
century by al-Mawdfidi and Rashid Rida, 
reflecting upon these same verses, have 
emphasized a reformist agenda. They 
point out, for instance, that the logic of 
strictly individualized merit and retribution 
serves to refute many aspects of popular 
piety (see festivals and commemorative 
days). They have been especially critical 
of elaborate funerary and memorial ritu- 
als, including the establishment of waqf 
endowments in support of such tomb- 
centered practices as well as the cult of 
saints and prayerful appeals for their inter- 
cession (q.v.). 

Patrick D. Gaffhey 

Primary: A. Ali, al-Qur'an. A commentary translation, 
Princeton 1984; Baydawl, Anwar; Jalalayn; A. al- 
Mawdiidi, The meaning of the Qur'an, 16 vols., 
Lahore 1988; Rashid Rida, Manor; Tabarl, TafsTr. 
Secondary: Baljon, Modern; K. Cragg, The weight 
in the word, Brighton 1999; J. Jomier, Le commentaire 
coranique du Manor, Paris 1954; Mir, Dictionary; 
F. Rahman, Major themes of the Qur'an, Minnea- 
polis 1980. 

Loan see debts; economics 



One who has power and authority. One of 
the most frequent nouns in the Qur'an, 
"lord" generally refers to God but on a few 
occasions designates a human master. 
Three terms in the Qur'an can be ren- 
dered into English as lord: rabb, mawla 
and wall. 

Rabb recurs 971 times in the Qur'an, 
never as an isolated word with the definite 
article (al-rabb) but always as the first term 
in a genitive construct (i.e. the lord of the 

heavens and the earth), most often with a 
personal pronoun as suffix. Rabb conveys 
not only the meanings of lord and master 
but also of caregiver, provider, sustainer (cf. 
the Arabic verb rabba, "to be lord," and 
also "to bring up, to care for"). The word is 
used to express the universal lordship of 
God (cf. Q_ 4:1, the lord of all humankind 
fal-ndsj) with special reference to his (but 
see gender for a discussion of the com- 
plexities of gender in Arabic grammar) 
creative act ("the lord of all the worlds/of 
the whole creation" [q.v.; rabb al-'alaminj, in 
forty-two instances); the lord of previous 
prophets ("the lord of Moses [q.v] and 
Aaron [q.v.]," o_ 7:122; 26:48; cf. 20:70; see 
prophets and prophethood); as well as 
the special relationship between the lord 
and the believer ("God is my lord," 
o 19:36, "and Noah [q.v.] called unto his 
lord," Q_ 11:45; see BELIEF AND UNBELIEF). 
When in the plural (arbab), the term indi- 
cates gods other than the one God and the 
opposition between the numerous gods 
and the one God is emphasized (o 9:31: 
"they have taken their rabbis and their 
monks for their lords [arbab] beside the 
God [min duni llahi, see jews and Judaism; 

TIC ism and monks]; and "... diverse 
lords... or the one God," Q_ 12:39; also 
o 3:64; cf. Qutb, %ildl, 15; see polytheism 
and atheism). 

The term rabb with reference to a human 
master is found in Surat Yusuf ("Joseph," 
Q_ 12). In this lively and linguistically inter- 
esting narrative of Joseph's life (see nar- 
ratives), the tension between loyalty to 
the human master and to the eternal lord 
is sustained by the consecutive use of the 
same term in both its meanings; Joseph 
(q.v.) says to the wife of his master (Poti- 
phar): "Goodly has my master (rabbi) made 
my lodging" (o_ 12:23), with the narrative 
continuing "and he [Joseph] would have 
succumbed had he not seen a proof of his 


lord's truth (burhan rabbihi)" (o 12:24). The 
link is even more evident in Joseph's own 
words to the king's messenger: "Go back to 
your lord (rabbika, "the king") . . . my lord 
(rabbi) [alone] has full knowledge of their 
[the women's] guile" (o 12:50). Rabb as 
human master occurs again in p_ 12 with 
reference to the Egyptian king in Q_ 12:41 
and 42 (see pharaoh). 

The lordship and majesty of God over 
the whole creation are conveyed through 
expressions such as rabb al- 'alamin, as men- 
tioned earlier, and also "the lord of the 
heavens (see heaven and sky) and the 
earth (q.v.) and what is between them" 
(o_ 26:24), "the lord of the east and the 
west and what is between them" (p_ 26:28), 
"the lord of the seven heavens" (o_ 23:86), 
and "the lord of the two easts and the two 
wests" (o_ 55:17). Lordship expressed 
through creation implies not a once and 
for all action but a continuous process 
(Qutb, ^ilal, 15-7): rabb is not only the origi- 
nator but also that which preserves, man- 
ages and regulates this creation (Ibn 
al-'Arabl, TafsTr, 10). 

In some instances the terms rabb and 
Allah are found together so as to reiterate 
the identity and specificity of lordship and 
divinity: "My lord is God" {rabbi Allah, 
o 40:28), or "God is my lord" (p_ 3:51; 
19:36; 43:64), as well as "our lord is God" 
(p_ 22:40; 46:13). Moreover, the use of rabb 
as lord could imply the correct relationship 
to be entertained between the creator and 
his creation, especially with the human be- 
ing whose role as servant (q.v; 'abd) is to 
worship the creator (cf. p_ 3:51; 8g:28-g; cf. 
Abu Hayyiln, Bah?; 18; Qunawi, Tjdz, 293). 
The majority of classical as well as modern 
exegetical (tafsir) works (see exegesis of 
the ojjr'an: classical and medieval; 

AND contemporary) provide explanations 
for the meanings of the term rabb in the 
Quran. Rabb describes God as master, sus- 

tainer and owner of his creation (Tabarl, 
Tafsir, i, 141-3; AlusI, Ruh, i, 77-8), as the 
incessant caretaker of the whole universe 
(Qutb, %ilal, 15, Rashld Rida, TafsTr, 36). 
Rabb indicates the lord of creation by vir- 
tue of the act of bringing the world into 
existence out of non-existence (Razi, Tafsir, 
i, 233-4; see cosmology). Accordingly, be- 
ing creator, God is the only one worthy of 
lordship [rububiyya; Baydawi, Anwar, ii, 123; 
Tabataba'i, Mizdn, i, 29-30). Elaborating 
on this aspect, mystical exegesis (see sufism 
and THE ojjr'an) identifies the term rabb 
with the level at which divine lordship, 
being related to the act of creation, can be 
known. Consequently, scholars such as 
Sahl al-Tustari (d. 283/896), Ibn al-Arabl 
(d. 638/1240) and al-Qunawi (d. 673/1274) 
distinguish the level of God as rabb (i.e. 
lord of creation) from that of God as, Allah 
which they consider to express divinity 
untouched by creation (Qunawi, Tjdz, 296). 
Sufis such as Abu 1-Hasan al-Nurl (d. 295/ 
907), or al-Muhasibl (d. 243/857) before 
him, express a similar concept by stressing 
the relation between rabb (master) and 
marbub (subject) to indicate the first human 
cognitive stage of the majesty of God (see 
knowledge and learning). 

The modernist Egyptian scholar Mah- 
miid Shaltut, shaykh of al-Azhar during 
1958-63, elaborates further on the lordship 
of God by linking it to three main aspects 
of divine providence. Firstly, God is the 
sole lord of the world through his physical 
creative providence, which not only caused 
the world to come into existence but also 
constantly preserves, nourishes and pro- 
tects it. Secondly, God is lord as he pro- 
vides humankind with the rational faculty 
which allows humans to identify the signs 
(q.v.) of God in the world and to distin- 
guish good from evil (see good and evil). 
Thirdly, God is lord through revelation 
of the laws he communicated through 
inspiration to the prophets and which are 


preserved in the scriptures as constant 
reminders to the whole of humankind (see 

In his seminal and controversial work The 
foreign vocabulary of the Qur'an (136-g), the 
scholar Arthur Jeffery believed the qur'anic 
use of the term rabb with reference to God 
to be the result of a linguistic borrowing 
from Aramaic or Syriac and also that the 
use of rabb to indicate "human chieftains" 
but also pre-Islamic gods was already at- 
tested by pre-Islamic poetry and inscrip- 
tions (ibid., 137; see foreign vocabu- 
lary). It should nevertheless be added that 
there is evidence of the use of rabb or 
rabbana as a title to address the pre-Islamic 
kahin, "priest/officiant of sacrifices" (Fahd, 
Divination, 107-8; see soothsayers). In a 
1958 article, the French Islamicist J. Chel- 
hod, applying criteria similar to those used 
in biblical textual criticism, analyzed the 
frequency of occurrence of the terms rabb 
and Allah for a tentative chronology of the 
qur'anic suras. Chelhod noted that while 
the use of the term rabb clearly decreases in 
the Medinan suras, that of Allah increases 
considerably from the third period of Mec- 
can suras onwards. Such observations led 
Chelhod to posit some hypotheses (summa- 
rized in Bowering, Chronology, 329-30), 
which importantly link qur'anic language 
and style (see language and style of 
the qur'an) to the inner chronology of 
the Qur'an (see chronology and the 

The Qur'an also uses mawla, "tutor, 
trustee, helper, ally," carrying the connota- 
tion of protector to signify divine lordship 
(q_ 47:11: "God is the mawla of the faithful, 
the unbelievers have no mawla"; also 
Q_ 2:286; 3:150; 6:62; 8:40; 9:51; 22:78; 47:11; 
66:2). In other instances, however, mawla is 
clearly used in a non-religious non-divine 
sense to indicate a friend, an ally (q_ 16:76; 
19:5; 44:41). Wall, one of the ninety-nine 

divine names (see god and his attrib- 
utes), occurs in several instances as lord in 
the sense of protector, guardian (q_ 2:257; 
3:68; 4:45; 7:155; l 2,- 11 ), but also of friend 
(O. 5 : 55> 6:14; 42:9; 45:19; see friends and 
friendship). It is also used, often in the 
plural form (awliya'), with reference to a 
human protector or friend (q_ 3:28, 175; 
4:89, 144; 5:51; etc.). 

Simonetta Calderini 

Primary: Abu Hayyan, Bahr, 18; AlusI, Rah, i, 
77-8; Baydawi, Anwar, i, 25-6; ii, 12; Ibn al-Arabl, 
Tafsir, i, 10; al-QunawT, Sadr al-Din Muhammad 
b. Ishaq, Kitab Tjaz at-bayanji ta'wit amm at-Qur'dn, 
ed. 'A. Ata (in ai-Tafsir al-sufi lil-Qur'dn), Cairo 
1969, 289-307; Qiitb, glial, i, 15-7; Rashld Rida, 
Manar, 36; RazT, Tafsir, i, 233-7; M. Shaltut, Tafsir 
al-Qur'an al-karim (al-ajza' al-'ashara al-uld), Cairo 
ig82 y , 22-3, 363-4; Tabarl, Tafsir, Cairo 1954, i, 
141-3; Tabataba'l, AlTzdn, trans. A. Rizvi, Tehran 

Secondary: G. Bowering, Chronology and the 
Qur'an, in eo, i, 316-35; S. Calderini, Tafsir of 
'atamin in rabb al-'atamin, Cuir'an 1:2, in BSOAS 57 
(1994), 52-8; J. Chelhod, Note sur l'emploi du 
mot rabb dans le Coran, in Arabica 5 (1958), 
159-67; T. Fahd, La divination arabe, Paris 1987, 
107-8; Jeffery, For. vocab., 136-7; Mir, Dictionary, 
177; Nwyia, Exegese, 65 f.; A.J. Wensinck, Mawla, 
in El 2 , vi, 874; id. and T. Fahd, Rabb, in Er, 


The prophet sent to the people of Sodom 
as mentioned in both the Bible and the 
Qur'an. In the latter, he is attested twenty- 
seven times. Among the qur'anic stories of 
divine punishment (see punishment 
stories; chastisement and punishment), 
that of Lot (Lut) and Sodom is second in 
terms of quantity to that of Noah (q.v.) 
and the flood. As in the Bible, it continues, 
in Q_ 11:69-83, 15:57-77, and Q_ 29:31-5, the 
story of the three angels (see angel) who 
visited Abraham (q.v.), announcing the 
birth of Isaac (q.v.), and of Abraham's 


dispute with them on the fate of Sodom 
(Gen 18-g). More frequently it is an inde- 
pendent tale, the angels playing their part 
as Lot's guests: o_ 7:80-4; 26:160-74; 

27 : 54-8; 37 :i 33-8; 54 : 33-7- 

In many details, the story is the same as 
other qur'anic tales of divine punishment: 
Lot was the brother (akhu) of his people 
[qawm, see brother and brotherhood), 
a messenger (q.v.; mursal, rasul) who ad- 
monished his people to fear (q.v.) God; he 
demanded obedience (q.v.) and did not ask 
for remuneration. Like Noah, Hud (q.v.), 
Salih (q.v.), Moses (q.v.) and other prophets 
(see prophets and prophethood), he was 
accused of being a liar (cf. p_ 3:184; see 
lie). His people were addicted to homo- 
sexuality (q.v), held up travelers (see 
hospitality and courtesy; highway 
robbery), and practiced wickedness in 
their councils (see good and evil; sin, 
major and minor). In vain Lot tried to 
convert them, offering them his daugh- 
ters for marriage (see marriage and 
divorce). He showed hospitality to the 
angels, protecting them from the obtrusive - 
ness of his people. The evildoers (see EVIL 
deeds) tried to enter his house by force but 
were deprived of their eyesight by divine 
interference (see vision and blindness). 
When the inhabitants threatened to expel 
Lot from the city, he prayed to God for 
help. The angels told Lot and his family to 
leave the city at night, forbidding them to 
turn back. Punishment came at sunrise. 
Rain fell on the evildoers, the city was 
turned upside down, and stones (hijdra min 
sijjil) hailed from the sky. According to 
other versions, the punishment was a cry, a 
sandstorm (hasib) or a convulsion from the 
sky (rijz min al-sama'). Lot and his family 
were rescued but his wife remained in the 
city and died. She was punished because 
she had conspired with the sinners. Like 
Noah's wife, she is an example of unbeliev- 

ing wives who betrayed their husbands 
(Q_ 66:iO; see WOMEN AND THE QJUR'An). 
In Muslim folklore the story has been 
developed extensively from biblical and 
extra-biblical Jewish and Christian tradi- 
tion, much of which has been included in 
the exegetical tradition (tafslr, see exe- 
medieval). Lot's people lived in three 
cities, five cities according to some, of 
which Sodom was the capital. It was 
reduced to an ugly, evil smelling lake, 
which is obviously the Dead Sea. God 
made it "a sign for those who believe" 
(o_ 15:77; see belief and unbelief; signs; 
geography). The cities are called al- 
Mu'tafikdt because Gabriel (q.v.) tore them 
out of the earth, lifted them with his wing, 
turned them upside down, and crushed 
them on the ground, then stones were 
hurled on them. Lot's people, men and 
women alike, were the first of humankind 
to practice homosexuality. The men were 
married but had unnatural intercourse 
with their wives. Lot did not offer them his 
own daughters, for as a prophet he was 
the father of his community, the same as 
Muhammad (whose wives have been called 
"mothers of the believers"; cf. p_ 33:6; see 
wives of the prophet). In Arabic, homo- 
sexuality is "lutiyya" and unnatural inter- 
course of men with women is termed 
"minor lutiyya" {lutiyya sughra, cf. Wensinck, 
Concordance, vi, 152; see sex and sexual- 
ity). According to a hadlth (see hadith 
and THE qur'an), lutiyya is forbidden on 
pain of death for both partners. Homo- 
sexuals will be stoned as stones killed Lot's 
people (see stoning; boundaries and 
precepts). Abu H am "fa (d. 150/767) taught 
that the transgressors should be thrown 
from a height (al-ld'it yulqd min shdhiq), and 
then stoned. 

Heribert Busse 



Primary (in addition to the classical com- 
mentaries on o_ 11:70-83; 15:57-76; 26:160-74): 
Kisa'T, Qisas, 145-50; Tabarl, Ta^nkh, ed. de 
Goeje, i, 325-43, trans. W.M. Brinner, The history 
of al-Taban. ii. Prophets and patriarchs, Albany 
1987, m-25; Tha'labi, Qisas, 90-4. 
Secondary: B. Heller/G. Vajda, Lut, in EI 2 , v, 
832-3; H.Z. Hirschberg, Lot, in Encyclopaedia 
Judaica, ed. C. Roth, 16 vols., Jerusalem 1972, xi, 
507-9; D. Kiinstlinger, Christliche Herkunft der 
kuranischen Lot-Legende, in ro 7 (1929-30), 
281-95; D. Marshall, God, Muhammad and the un- 
believers, Richmond, Surrey 1999; A. Rothkoff/ 
M. Avi-Yonah, Sodom and Gomorrah, in Ency- 
clopaedia Judaica, ed. C. Roth, 16 vols., Jerusalem 
1972, xv, 70-2; Speyer, Erzdhlungen, 150-8; 
R. Tottoli, Biblical prophets in the Qur J an and Muslim 
literature, Richmond 2002, 27-8 (trans, of I profeti 
biblici nella tradizione islamica, Brescia 1999, 50-2); 
Wensinck, Concordance. 

Lote Tree see agriculture and 
vegetation; trees; ascension 

Love and Affection 

Feelings of personal attachment induced 
by kinship (q.v.) or sympathy. Ahabba is the 
most used verb to express the idea of love. 
The lexical field of the concept "love" has 
other roots, however, such as w-d-d, among 
others. The verbal noun hubb, "love," is 
mentioned nine times in the Qur'an. Love 
links humankind to God, human beings to 
one another and the individual to earthly 
life and its pleasures. As far as God's love is 
concerned, it focuses on persons but also 
on their qualities or their actions. In fact, 
the human being is often split between two 
contradictory attachments, one capable of 
leading to his damnation, the other to his 
salvation. And thus love is not dissociated 
from faith (q.v.) in the relationship with 
God or with humankind. 

God takes the initiative in everything and 
his love anticipates that of human beings: 

"He will cause people to come whom he 
will love and who will love him" (q_ 5:54). 
This divine love appears as a pure act of 
election (q.v), especially in the case of a 
prophet (see prophets and prophet- 
hood) such as Moses (q.v.): "And I have 
projected upon you a love (mahabba) on my 
part" (q_ 20:39). Nonetheless, people attract 
God's love to themselves by their works 
and especially by imitation of the Prophet, 
but there can be no pretension of loving 
God on their own initiative. It is said thus 
to the Prophet: "Say: if you truly love God, 
follow me, God will love you" (q_ 3:31). To 
say that one is loved by God is, in the view 
of the Qur'an, all the more unacceptable 
in that such a pretension is part and parcel 
of a certain confusion of the human and 
the divine (cf. Q_ 5:18, "The Jews and the 
Christians have said: We are the sons of 
God and his well-beloved ones" fahib- 
bd'uhu], see jews and Judaism; christians 
and Christianity). 

The Qur'an qualifies God as he who 
loves (al-wadudj, a name which, in the two 
places it occurs (q_ 85:14; cf. 11:90, where 
the definite article is not used), is linked to 
the attributes of mercy (q.v.) and forgive- 
ness (q.v). In the same way it is the "all- 
merciful" (al-rahmdn) who places in the 
hearts (see heart) of the believers (see 
belief and unbelief) love of or attach- 
ment to him (wudd) by way of response to 
their faith and their works (cf Q_ 19:96). 
If the name al-wadud gives the clearest 
expression to the reciprocity of love be- 
tween God and humans, other divine 
names also suggest on God's part a form 
of affection comparable to that of humans: 
He is the good, the merciful (al-barr al- 
rahim, Q_ 52:28), just as people are good to- 
wards their parents (q.v.; cf. o 19:14, 32; see 
also family). He shows compassion as does 
the Prophet towards the believers: "He has 
at heart that which you suffer, he has care 



for you, for the believers, compassionate 
(ra'uf) and merciful" (q_ 9:128). This same 
compassion (ra'fa) can be found in the 
disciples (see apostle) of Jesus (q.v.), al- 
though it is not clear whether the senti- 
ment is directed towards God or towards 
creatures. It is doubtlessly both, since the 
tender care shown to John (q.v.; Yahya) by 
God (hananan min ladunna) manifests itself 
in his filial piety (cf. Q_ 19:13, 14). 

Love, in the sense of affection and com- 
passion, thus appears as a movement by 
God towards humans that is reciprocated, 
and then a movement by a human being 
towards his fellow creature. The verb 
ahabba/yuhibbu often, however, indicates 
another type of relationship. God is said to 
love or not to love such conduct. Love, and 
its opposite, establishes from then on a law 
defining human actions according to the 
extent to which they conform or fail to 
conform to the divine will (see law and 
the qjur'an). God loves those who act for 
the best (al-muhsinun, five times; see good 
deeds; good and evil) or the just [al- 
muqsitun, three times; see justice and 
injustice), in such a manner that whoever 
performs acts lovable to God attracts the 
divine love to himself: "those men who love 
to purify themselves and God loves those 
who purify themselves" (o 9:108). On the 
other hand, God does not love qualities 
that clash with his nor does he love types of 
behavior contrary to his law, such as shown 
by the unjust (al-^alimun, three times) or the 
transgressors (al-mu'tadun, three times; see 
boundaries and precepts), etc. 

As we shall soon see, love or friendship 
between human beings is not fully recog- 
nized by the Quran unless confirmed by 
faith. It is also worth noting that the term 
hubb, in the sense of human love, is only 
used once with an apparently negative 
connotation. In Q_ 12 (Surat Yusuf, 
"Joseph"), love in all its various forms plays 
a complex role. Jacob's (q.v.) preference for 

Joseph (q.v.) and the jealousy (see envy) of 
the latter's brothers ("Joseph is more be- 
loved fahabbu] of our father than are we," 
benjamin) are indirectly the cause of the 
love of the wife of al-Aziz (see KINGS AND 
rulers). But whether or not Joseph was 
sensitive to this, according to the divergent 
interpretations of the commentators (see 
medieval) on c) 12:24 (cf. De Premare, 
Joseph, 63-5), the passionate type of love 
that grips the heart (cf. {) 12:30, qad shagha- 
faha hubban) is attributed only to women 
(see women and THE qjjr'an). Tempted 
afresh, Joseph calls on divine protection 
against the wiles of women and states that 
he would prefer (ahabbu) prison to his incli- 
nation for woman [asbu ilayhinna, Q_ 12:33-4). 
Even if subsequent tradition places 
(greater) value on the love between Joseph 
and Zulaykha, we have to recognize that it 
is the love of Jacob for his son that guides 
the story, from beginning to end. By way 
of contrast, the legitimate attraction felt 
by the daughter of Jethro (Shu'ayb [q.v.]) 
for Moses is only barely hinted at (cf. 
Q_ 28:25-6). This also applies to the Proph- 
et's attraction for Zaynab (o 33:4; see 
WIVES OF THE prophet), another instance 
which illustrates how little attention the 
Qur'an devotes to the love of a man for a 
woman or that of a woman for a man. 
In Q_ 33 (Surat al-Ahzab, "The Clans"), 
despite an entire passage being devoted to 
the Prophet's spouses, marital love is only 
alluded to in the command given to the 
Prophet to ensure that his wives experience 
joy (see joy and misery) and satisfaction 
(cf. Q_ 33:51). Several verses recall that in 
the beginning man and woman were a 
unique entity which marriage implicitly 
aims to re-establish (see marriage and 
divorce). Developing this idea, however, 
one verse qualifies the love between 
spouses as one of those mysteries of ere- 



ation (q.v.) which lead to knowledge of 
God (see knowledge and learning): 
"Among his signs (q.v.) he has created for 
you, out of your very souls (see soul), 
spouses so that you may find rest in them 
and he has placed between you love 
(mawadda) and mercy. Surely there are in 
that signs for people who reflect" (q 30:21). 
Seen from this vantage point, the happi- 
ness obtained by or for wives and by the 
descendants issuing from this happiness is 
expressed by a term (qurrat ayun, "the 
freshness of the eyes") that emphasizes its 
paradisiacal nature (compare q 25:74 and 
33:51 with q 32:17; see paradise). As a 
whole, the passages in q 2 (Surat al- 
Baqara, "The Cow") and q 4 (Surat al- 
Nisa', "Women") that relate to marriage 
deal with the relationships between spouses 
in terms that are too legal to suggest bonds 
of love or affection. The reciprocal attrac- 
tion between the future spouses is simply 
suggested in connection with re-marriage 
or a proposal of marriage (q 2:232, 235), 
or with reference to the equality to be 
observed between the spouses (q 4:3, 129). 
As the commentators emphasize in their 
interpretation of these latter verses, equal- 
ity cannot relate to love that man cannot 
control. A further qur'anic image of 
spouses is found in q 2:187, in which the 
pair are portrayed as garments for each 
other (see clothing). 

The passages giving strong expression to 
the love between God and humans or 
between spouses thus occur infrequently 
in the Quran. The term hubb (and verbal 
derivatives of h-b-b such as ahabba) is used 
much more often for that which occupies 
the human heart first and foremost, pas- 
sion and worldly goods: "and you devote to 
material goods a terrible love" (q 89:20; 
see wealth). Humans are inevitably 
pushed to the desire for things and persons 
rather than to the things or persons them- 
selves: "Embellished for people is the love 

of desires, the desire of women, of chil- 
dren, of massed quintals of gold (q.v.) and 
silver, thoroughbred horses, flocks and 
crops. That is the joy of the life here below, 
but being with God is an excellent return" 
(q 3:14). The opposition between the love 
of things and the return to God is con- 
tained in an element of the qur'anic dis- 
course that places faith in opposition to 
other attitudes (such as hypocrisy or disbe- 
lief; see hypocrites and hypocrisy). 
Thus the love of God is opposed to the 
worst of sins (see sin, major and minor): 
"There are people who choose, outside of 
God, rivals whom they love as the love of 
God, but the believers have a stronger love 
for God (ashaddu hubban lillahi, q 2:165). 

In the same way that human beings are 
naturally borne towards sensual desires, "it 
is God who has made you love (habbaba) 
the faith and has embellished it in your 
hearts and has made you detest (karraha) 
impiety, prevarication (see lie) and disobe- 
dience" (q.v.; q 49:7). Humanity thus finds 
itself split between two incompatible loves: 
the one that leads to faith and conformity 
with the divine will, and the other, which 
brings one to the nether world (cf. q 2:216; 
see hell and hellfire). The close link 
between faith and love also conditions love 
between human beings. One can only truly 
love believers, since love for unbelievers 
separates one from God and attracts one 
towards this world: "You will not find peo- 
ple who believe in God and the last day 
(see LAST judgment) and who [also] show 
their friendship (juwaddun, see friends 
and friendship) towards those opposed to 
God and to the one he has sent" (q 58:22). 
Here friendship (mawadda) links up again 
with the concept of walaya, "friendship, 
alliance, attachment" (see contracts and 
alliances). Adopting unbelievers as 
friends or allies (wall, pi. awliya') is equiva- 
lent to lining up on the side of the enemies 
(q.v.) of God (cf. q 60:1). God alone can 



turn this hostility into friendship. But 
meanwhile one can show goodness and 
justice towards the unbelievers on condi- 
tion that they show no hostility towards 
Islam (cf. Q_ 60:7-8). It is one of the duties 
incumbent on the one who calls on God to 
bring about the transformation of the 
enemy into a close friend (wall hamim, cf. 
Q_ 41:34). In the same way, the relationships 
with the People of the Book (q.v.) are de- 
fined in terms of friendship and hostility. 
They cannot be adopted as awliyd' (cf. 
o 5:51). A distinction is made, however, 
between the Jews and the Christians, 
"closer in friendship (aqrabahum. mawad- 
datan) to the believers" (o 5:82). True 
friendship thus rests on faith and a shared 
expectation of the world to come (see 
eschatology), so much so that on the day 
of the resurrection (q.v.) the unbelievers 
will find themselves without "a close 
friend" (sadiq hamim, cf. Q_ 26:101; also 
o 40:18; 70:10). It is in this kind of eschato- 
logical context that the Prophet appeals to 
love or friendship for one's relatives (al- 
mawaddatafi l-qurba, q 42:23). Al-Tabarl 
(d. 310/923; Tafsir, xxv, 15-7) lists four dif- 
ferent interpretations of this expression, 
while showing preference for the first: 
1) the Qurayshites (see quraysh) are in- 
vited to love the Prophet because of his 
kinship with all the clans of his tribe; 2) the 
believers should love the close kin of the 
Prophet (see family of the prophet); 
3) they must love God in approaching him 
through their works; 4) they should also 
love their own kin. From an historical point 
of view the first two interpretations could, 
respectively, correspond to the Meccan and 
Medinan phases of the revelation (see 
SIONS of revelation; revelation and 
inspiration), while the second two mini- 
mize the importance of the love of the 
Prophet's family, the People of the House 
(q.v.; ahl al-bayt). Taken overall, these an- 

cient commentaries show the many possi- 
ble directions of love in the Qur'an: love 
of God confirmed by works, love of the 
Prophet and his kin, love for one's own kin, 
which, in a sense, implies the whole body 
of believers, as is also said of the waldya (cf. 
q_ 5:55; see community and society in 
the qur'an). The presence of God, the 
source and finality of all things, gives 
direction to the entire discourse of the 
Qur'an: love and friendship can only come 
from God and lead back to him. The lov- 
ing relationship between man and woman 
is disregarded except on this condition. 
The ideal wives are called qanitat, obedient 
and devoted, both to God and to their hus- 
bands (cf. T a bari, Tafsir, viii, 294, on the 
subject of Q_ 4:34). In the Qur'an only the 
love and friendship of God extend beyond 
the limits of this world. 

The few passages in the Qur'an dealing 
with love have scarcely encouraged authors 
to extract from the Qur'an the fundamen- 
tals of divine and human love. Traces of 
the affective side of love are found mainly 
in the sunna (q.v; see also hadith and the 
qur'an). The Sufis themselves (see sufism 
and THE qur'an), when quoting verses 
such as Q 2:165 or Q_ 5:54, are more likely to 
express their love for God in terms of the 
Arabic tradition, poetic and private. In his 
Haqd'iq al-tafsir, al-Sulaml (d. 412/1021) is 
more preoccupied with bringing together 
the statements concerning love made by 
the spiritual masters than he is with com- 
menting on Q_ 3:31. A commentator such as 
Fakhr al-Din al-RazI (d. 606/1210; Tafsir, 
iv, 204-8) gives an outline of a theory of 
love based on Q_ 2:165. But Ibn al-Arabi 
(d. 638/1240) in his al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (ii, 
327-32; Gloton, Traite, 69-92) has especially 
illuminated the foundations of the meta- 
physical doctrine of love found in the 
Qur'an. Yet — unless the present writer is 
mistaken — it seems that no author has 
attempted a synthesis of all the passages 



in the Qur'an dealing with love and its 
associated concepts. 



ems Ijnl 

Primary: Ibn al-'Arabl, Muhyl 1-Dm, al-Futuhat 
al-makkiyya, Cairo rgi r; Fr. trans. M. Gloton, Ibn 
'Arabl. Traite de Vamour, Paris 1986; RazI, TafsTr; 
SulamT, Haqd'iq al-tafsir, ms. Fatih 261, ff. 27b-28b 
and Qydddt 25-6; Tabarl, TafsTr, Beirut 1972; ed. 
Shakir, Cairo 1971^. 

Secondary: A.-L. de Premaxe, Joseph et Muham- 
mad, he chapitre 12 du Goran, Aix-en-Provence 
1989; id., Les rapports entre homines et femmes 
dans quelques textes islamiques primitifs, in 
M. Bernos (ed.), Sexualite et religions, Paris 1989, 



Being true to anyone to whom one owes 
fidelity. The idea or concept of "loyalty" 
occurs discursively in the Qur'an and is 
dispersed under a variety of rubrics. Even 
though there is no single term that specific- 
ally deals with the theme of "loyalty," it 
nevertheless features in the discussions 
and exegesis of a number of verses (see 
medieval). The concept is most frequently 
encountered in relation to "pacts of mu- 
tual assistance" (muwala, see contracts 
and alliances; breaking trusts and 
contracts) and other formations of the 
Arabic root w-l-y, whose basic meaning is 
"friend/ally" [wall, see friends and 
friendship). In an eschatological context 
(see eschatology), on the day of judg- 
ment (see last judgment), those who are 
consigned to hell (q.v.; see also reward 
and punishment) are said to have no "bo- 
som" or "close" — i.e. "loyal" — friend 
[hamim, e.g. Q_ 69:35; sadiq, o_ 26:101) or 
intercessor (see intercession). The no- 

tions conveyed by terms like "friend," 
"close" and "ally" normally, however, 
occur as adjectives in the Qur'an and are 
therefore not exact equivalents of the 
English noun, "loyalty." 

Loyalty is not explicitly defined in the 
commentaries but it is frequently described 
and illustrated contextually. Two kinds of 
loyalty are discernable from various 
Qur'an passages: (1) corporate loyalty that 
demands a commitment to the community 
of faith (q.v.; see also community and 
society in the qjur'an) and (2) individual 
loyalty displayed towards fellow Muslims as 
well as to non-Muslims, a phenomenon 
that is more ambiguous and complex (see 
ethics and the qur'an). Corporate loy- 
alty is framed by those passages of the 
Qur'an that regulate the relationship be- 
tween believers and unbelievers as well as 
those verses that define the covenantal 
relationship between the Muslim and God 
(see belief and unbelief; covenant). 
The qur'anic narrative unmistakably 
implies that inter-human conduct — irre- 
spective of whether it occurs within the 
confessional community of Muslims or 
with outsiders — is largely contingent on 
the relationship between humans and God. 

This theistic dimension casts its shadow 
on the themes of loyalty and friendship. 
Thus, the believers who fulfill God's will 
are clearly identified with God's cause and 
his people (see path or way). Any parti- 
sanship and association with those who 
reject God's will shall have castigatory 
consequences depending on the extent to 
which such links are offensive to God and 
the cause of righteousness on earth. Show- 
ing affection or displaying dislike to any 
human being ought to be exclusively for 
the sake of God (al-hubb lillah wa-l-bughd 
lillah), a phrase frequently cited by com- 
mentators as a saying attributed to the 
Prophet (see hadith and the qur'an). 
Thus, the God of the Qur'an mediates the 



most intimate bonds of friendship, confi- 
dence, privacy and loyalty (see trust and 

Explicit traces of Islam's founding history 
(see history and the qjur'an; occasions 
of revelation) are evident in qur'anic 
narratives (q.v.) and norms that structure 
the notions of friendship and loyalty. The 
qur'anic narrative reflects the vagaries of 
the intense inter-communal relationships 
between believers on the one hand, and 
polytheists, Jews and Christians on the 
other, as the nascent community of believ- 
ers became a sizeable political entity in 
Medina (q.v; see also jews and Judaism; 
christians and Christianity; poly- 
theism and atheism). Initially, qur'anic 
pronouncements meticulously regulate the 
political relationships, but the moralizing 
discourse that colors these identities gradu- 
ally grows and intensifies (see politics and 
the qjur'an; religious pluralism and 
the qjur'an). 

Prior to the normative influence of Islam 
(q.v.) in Arabia, alliances customarily were 
based on grounds of kinship (q.v.; nasab) 
while military and political strength de- 
pended on one's choice of political friends 
or allies (wall, pi. awliya', see pre-islamic 
Arabia and THE qur'an). The increasing 
hostilities between the Muslims and their 
Meccan opponents, exacerbated by the 
support of the Medinan Jews for Muham- 
mad's enemies (q.v.) correlate directly with 
the Qur'an's prohibition and restriction of 
corporate loyalty and mutual help pacts 
(muwala) between Muslims and non- 
Muslims (see opposition to muhammad). 
Verses in seven different passages repeat- 
edly stress the fact that believers ought 
not to take unbelievers as their allies 
(ft 3:28; 4:89, 139, 144; cf. 5:51, 57, 80-1). 

In one instance even the People of the 
Book (q.v; Jews and Christians in this 
case), towards whom the Quran generally 

shows deference, are deplored as potential 
partners in alliance since they are alleged 
to have loyalties with each other and they 
are suspected of harboring vengeful en- 
mity towards the Muslim community 
(O. 5-5 1 )- I n f ac t, the rhetoric becomes so 
intense that the verse even goes on to 
assert that those Muslims who transgress 
this prohibition and form such alliances 
are deemed to "be part of them," namely 
one of the Jews or Christians, a severe 
rejection that equates the identity of the 
offender with the ideological "other." The 
Qur'an specifically prohibits loyalty treaties 
with non-Muslim parties when the latter 
are favored "in preference to believers" 
(min duni l-mu'mimn, Q_ 3:28). In other words, 
if alliances with non-believers turn out to 
harm the interests of fellow Muslims then 
they are outlawed as a matter of princi- 
ple. Only expediency (taqiyya, see dissi- 
mulation) permits the continuation of 
loyalty treaties with unbelievers, especially 
if breaking such treaties would pose a gen- 
uine threat to the welfare and safety of 

Nevertheless, the Qur'an does permit 
Muslims to show kindness as well as to 
exhibit virtuous conduct and justice to 
those non-Muslims who are not engaged 
in active hostility towards them (o_ 60:8-9). 
While this passage has general implica- 
tions, and could easily be viewed as also 
sanctioning corporate loyalty across reli- 
gious boundaries, many commentators 
only permit its interpretation as reference 
to individual and private loyalty. Again, 
such relationships are subject to the caveat 
that they do not harm the general welfare 
of Muslims. o_ 58:22 also reinforces the 
theme of individual loyalty found in 
Q_ 60:8-9. It, however, forcefully plays off 
loyalties based on kinship against loyalties 
based on faith. Q_ 58:22 deems it unimagi- 
nable that one can show "love" (q.v.) to 



someone who is related by blood and kin- 
ship ties but who contests and disputes 
the divine message and prophecy (see 
prophets AND prophethood). The infer- 
ence is clear: bonds of faith outweigh loy- 
alties based on family and kinship ties. 
Even though he is said to have lied three 
times (cf. Gilliot, Trois mensonges), the 
prophet Abraham (q.v; Ibrahim) is cast as 
the paragon of loyalty toward the divine as 
in Q_ 53:37. Abraham's willingness to fulfill 
(wajja) his commitments to God, including 
his readiness to sacrifice (q.v.) his son (cf. 
°~ 37:99-111) and his disavowal of his 
father's idolatry (cf. p_ 6:74-84; see idol- 
atry and idolaters), turns him into 
God's loyal friend (0^4:125; see hanIf). In 
C3 2:40 the Children of Israel (q.v.) are 
reminded of their duty to fulfill their part 
of the covenant (wa-awju bi-'ahdi ufi bi- 
'ahdikum) as a sign of loyalty to God. Fulfill- 
ment (tfS'J of promises, contracts and 
agreements are crucial supplements to the 
Qur'an's covenant-based worldview (see 
oaths). There is also an isomorphic rela- 
tionship between secular and cosmological 
loyalties because it is presumed that one 
who has a sound creed (see creeds) would 
also be better equipped ethically to fulfill 
worldly commitments and contractual 

Some pre-modern and modern exegetes 
(see exegesis of the qur'an: early 
modern and contemporary) are con- 
fronted by two major interpretative ques- 
tions with regard to the exegesis of loyalty. 
Firstly, controversy exists about whether 
Q_ 60:8-9, which permits relations with non- 
hostile unbelievers, is abrogated by the 
later revelation of C3 9:5 (known as the 
"verse of the sword"; see abrogation; 
fighting). The latter abrogates all agree- 
ments and treaties that Muhammad had 
with non-Muslim political entities and fos- 
ters an uncompromising hostility towards 

all unbelievers. Secondly, if Q_ 60:8-9 is not 
abrogated, then does it sanction the toler- 
ance of personal and individual loyalty 
across religious boundaries as opposed to 
the prohibition of corporate loyalty of a 
political nature? 

The Persian exegete al-Tabari (d. 310/ 
923) argues that c) 3:28 decisively prohibits 
believers from taking unbelievers (kuffar) as 
their "helpers (a'wan), protectors (ansar) 
and partisans (^dhinn)." Taking non- 
Muslims as protectors in preference to 
believers, he adds, is tantamount to affirm- 
ing their religion, thereby strengthening 
the false beliefs of the enemy against those 
of the Muslims (Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 228). 
Even though believers are admonished not 
to make pacts that favor unbelievers in 
"preference to fellow believers," most 
exegetes deem it acceptable to maintain 
strategic loyalties for the purpose of sur- 
vival. In the view of a number of com- 
mentators, the struggle of belief against 
unbelief is a permanent one and thus 
there is an — albeit implicit — general 
rule that prohibits loyalty pacts. Therefore, 
al-Tabari views the act of a Muslim dis- 
playing loyalty to non-Muslims to be an 
extremely displeasing and a hostile act 
against God, his Prophet and the believers 
at large. And any Muslim who shows loy- 
alty to Jews and Christians, he goes on to 
say, has "declared war on the people of 
faith" (Tabarl, Tafsir, vi, 276). 

Interestingly, the Shi'l exegete al-Tabarsi 
(d. ca. 552/1157; see shi'ism and the 
our'an) understands the Qur'an's prohibi- 
tion against alliances and friendships with 
non-Muslims to be for reasons of power. 
Seeking alliances and loyalty pacts with 
non-Muslims is tantamount to seeking a 
position of invincibility with those whose 
faith is unacceptable to God. Such alli- 
ances undermine the believers' faith in 
God and affect God's estimation of their 



belief (Tabarsi, Majma', v, 261). The terms 
"Jews" and "Christians" generically repre- 
sent all classes of unbelievers, towards 
whom hostility is obligatory and thus 
friendship and loyalty with them is, im- 
plicitly, outlawed (Tabarsi, Majma', vi, 119). 
Al-Tabarsi treats unbelief in an almost 
undifferentiated manner, because he main- 
tains that all non-Muslims have "a single 
hand against the Muslims." He also be- 
lieves that the summons to show virtuous 
and equitable treatment of non-Muslims in 
o 60:8-9 was abrogated by the "verse of 
the sword." He concedes, though, that 
60:8-9 allowed some Muslims during the 
Prophet's time to interact with their non- 
Muslim relatives who did not actively show 
hostility to Muslims. This specific verse 
permits loyalty affiliations with non- 
Muslims with whom Muslims have treaties, 
says al-TabarsI, citing a general consensus 
that permits the demonstration of kindness 
to persons deemed to be subjects of the 
"territory of war" (q.v.; dar al-harb). 

The Andalusian exegete al-Qurtubl 
(d. 671/1272) declares with unequivocal 
finality that unbelievers, Jews as well as 
those Muslims who espouse heretical ten- 
dencies (see heresy), cannot be treated as 
friends and relied upon as loyal intimates 
(Jami', iv, 178). He believes that Q_ 3:118 
strictly forbade believers to take as loyal 
confidants (bitana) a person from another 
religion. "Every person," he adds, "who is 
contrary to your way of life (madhhab) and 
religion (dm), [surely] there is no need for 
you to converse with him." He goes so far 
as to say that appointing "protected per- 
sons" (ahl al-dhimma) as agents in trans- 
actions or as clerks and secretaries in 
government is not permissible. In his jere- 
miad he rails against the "ignorant and 
stupid governors and princes" of his day 
who had ignored the Qur'an's teachings 
on these matters (Qurtubl, Jami :', iv, 179). 

Al-Qurtubl's vehemence stems from the 
prohibition found in Q_ 5:51 that severs loy- 
alty pacts (muwala) with unbelievers, a 
command he claims will remain in force 
"till the day of judgment" (Qurtubl, Jami , 
vi, 217). He went so far as to disallow the 
employment of non-Muslims even in in- 
stances that might be beneficial to the 
religion of Islam (Qurtubl, Jami', v, 416). 
Al-Qurtubl's antipathy for alliances and 
interactions with non-Muslims was most 
likely fuelled by the common perception 
among the Muslim religious classes of his 
day that the rulers of his native Andalusia 
had capitulated to Christian political influ- 
ences and had endangered the suzerainty 
of Islam in the Iberian peninsula. 

For the modern revivalist commentator 
Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the verses examined 
above suggest the impossibility of inter- 
religious political co-existence. For him, 
the Qur'an mandates the "total isolation" 
of Muslims from other ideological commu- 
nities (Qutb, Zilal, ii, 907). Employing a 
qur'anic idiom, Qutb says that Muslims 
are the only group that can legitimately be 
called "the party of God" (hizab Allah) as a 
model for universal moral rectitude (see 
parties AND factions). Among world- 
views, he attributes this separatist under- 
standing as unique to Islam, for it 
necessarily and inevitably anticipates an 
ideological confrontation with the anti- 
Islamic mores and norms of non-Muslim 
societies at large. This separatist impera- 
tive, in his view, makes it impossible for 
Muslims to give political loyalty to any 
other ideological group since doing so 
would be tantamount to apostasy (q.v.). 
Islam's tolerance for the People of the 
Book should not be confused with an 
endorsement of loyalty pacts. Qutb argues 
that modern history — especially the his- 
tory of colonialism, and the creation of the 
state of Israel that resulted in the dispos- 

2 4 I 


session and expulsion of the Palestinians 
from their native land — was achieved as a 
result of a hostile Christian and Jewish col- 
lusion. He saw this as conclusive proof that 
loyalty to such religious communities could 
be nothing but an anathema to Muslim 
sensibilities (Qutb, i^ildl, ii, 907-17; id., 
Ma'alim, passim). 

In his commentary on o_ 60:8-9, Qutb 
retreats from his earlier position, which 
was absolutely against loyalty pacts across 
religious boundaries. Here he concedes 
that God permits "mutual friendly rela- 
tions" (mawadda) on an individual level 
towards those non-Muslims who do not 
show aggression towards Muslims. While 
reiterating the ban on loyalty pacts, he im- 
plicitly concedes that pacts may be possible 
with friendly non-Muslim entities (Qutb, 
Qldl, vi [xxviii], 3544). His rhetoric be- 
comes conciliatory by arguing that Islam 
is a dogma ('aqida) of love and it has no 
interest in conflict if there is no hostility 
directed at Muslims. 

The Pakistani ideologue S. Abu Ala, 
Maududi (d. 1979) interprets the verses 
that deal with loyalty pacts in a functional 
manner. For him they serve as a reminder 
to Muslims not to become instruments in 
the service of enemies who, in the end, 
will undermine their existential interests. 
While Maududl's tone, unlike that of 
Qutb, is subdued, he also argues that the 
Quran prohibits friendship with hostile 
non-Muslims and taking them into con- 
fidence, while recommending kind and 
just treatment for those non-Muslims 
who do not demonstrate active enmity to- 
wards Muslims (Maududi, Message, ii, 19). 
Muhammad Asad (d. 1992), the Austrian- 
born convert and Qur'an commentator, 
states that the verses prohibiting loyalty 
pacts with non-Muslims cover both politi- 
cal and moral alliances. His interpretation 
is that those who deny the truth of the 

divine message are precluded from being 
real friends to believers in a corporate 
sense, while not ruling out friendship be- 
tween individuals of different religions 
(Asad, Message, 252-3, n. 82). The Qur'an, 
however, permits corporate loyalty pacts 
with those non-Muslims who are well 
disposed towards them (Asad, Message, 

r 55> n - 73)- 

From this brief and select sample of exe- 
getical materials it becomes apparent that 
the notion of loyalty is framed within the 
evolving narrative of the Qur'an's dis- 
courses on the construction of the Muslim 
individual and corporate "self" in the mir- 
ror of the non-Muslim "other." Genuine 
loyalty can only occur among those who 
are ideologically of one's own kind, ac- 
cording to some Muslim exegetes. Most 
early commentators follow a strict chrono- 
logical hermeneutic. One sees therefore an 
initial tolerance for loyalty based on kin- 
ship being gradually supplanted by a loy- 
alty based on faith as the pax-Islamica 
grows in Arabia. Corporate inter-faith loy- 
alty, in turn, can only occur under certain 
limited conditions, while there is some lee- 
way for Muslims to maintain individual 
loyalties across the boundaries of faith. 
Theism and bonds of faith ultimately 
mediate loyalty. Loyalty to a fellow-believer 
reinforces one's belief in a common God 
which, in turn, creates a notion of commu- 
nity that transcends kinship and ethnicity. 

Ebrahim Moosa 

Primary: M. Asad, The message of the Qur'an, 
Gibraltar 1980; S. Abu A'la Maududi, The 
meaning of the Qur'an, trans. M. Akbar, ed. A. A. 
Kamal, Lahore 1985; QurtubT, Jami c ; S. Qutb, 
Ma'atim ft l-tanq, Cairo 1980; id., Zjiai, 30 vols, 
in 6, Beirut 1977 3 ; TabarT, TafsTr, Cairo 1968 3 ; 
TabarsT, Majma\ 

Secondary: C. Gilliot, Les trois mensonges 
d'Abraham dans la tradition interpretante 



musulmane, in los 17 (1997), 37-87; J.D. 
McAuliffe, Christians in the Qur'an and tafsTr, 
in J. Waardenburg (ed.), Muslim perceptions of 
other religions. A historical survey, New York 1999, 
105-21 (esp. 110-12); R. Mottahedeh, Loyalty and 
leadership in an early Islamic society, Princeton 1980. 


A personage whom the Qur'an notes for 
his wisdom. Only Q_ 31, the sura bearing his 
name, mentions this wise man, and it 
devotes eight of its thirty-four verses 
(q_ 31:12-19) to Luqman's wisdom (q.v.). At 
the time of Muhammad, the Arabs may 
have known two Luqmans: one, the son of 
'Ad (q.v.), renowned for intelligence, lead- 
ership, knowledge, eloquence and subtlety 
(Heller, Lukman, 811; see knowledge and 
learning); the other, Luqman the Sage 
(al-haklm), famous for his wise pronounce- 
ments and proverbs (see pre-islamic 
Arabia and the qjjr'an). The latter — if 
these two are not in fact one — appears in 

9 31- 

Luqman's identity, however, is by no 
means certain. Muslim interpreters (see 
medieval) identify him as a Nubian, an 
Ethiopian or an Egyptian slave who 
worked as a carpenter or a shepherd. 
Some others place him among the He- 
brews as the nephew of Job (q.v.), the son 
of Ba'ura', son of Nahur, son of Tarih, the 
father of Abraham (q.v.; Ibrahim) who 
lived long enough to provide knowledge for 
David (q.v.; Da'ud) the king. The majority 
of interpreters agree that he was not a 
prophet and not an Arab (see prophets 
and prophethood; Arabs). Orientalists 
(see post-enlightenment academic 
study of the cjur'an) have associated 
Luqman with such figures as Prometheus, 
Lucian and Solomon (q.v.). He is identified 
with the biblical Baalam (= Ibn Ba'ura'), 
partly because the Hebrew bulla 'and the 

Arabic laqima both meaning "to swallow." 
The modern commentator al-Qasimi 
(d. 1914; see exegesis of the qjjr'an: 

mentions this connection. Because his 
admonition, "lower your voice; for the 
harshest of sounds... is the braying of the 
ass" (q_ 31:19), finds a counterpart in the 
Syriac sayings of Ahiqar, Luqman has also 
been identified with that legendary sage 
(see syriac AND THE qjjr'an). Finally, the 
contemporary scholar Mahmud Muftic 
shows that the Luqman of the Qur'an 
can be identified with the Greek physician 
and Pythagorean philosopher Alcmaeon 
(571-497 B.c.E.), a position also assumed by 
some Orientalists. Their names are clearly 
similar and the extant fragments of Alc- 
maeon's writing exhibit a striking similarity 
to the teachings of o_ 31. Muftic finds in 
this sura a physicians' oath that he thinks 
is superior to the oath of Hippocrates 
(460-377 B.c.E. ; cf. Muftic, Which oath?; 


Two themes occurring prominently in the 
Luqman section of q 31 provide coherence 
for the sura: (1) the greatness of the one 
God (see god and his attributes) and 
the necessity of worshipping him exclu- 
sively and (2) the importance of being good 
to parents (q.v.) within the limits of a 
higher allegiance to God. Luqman models 
ideal parenthood, instructing his son in a 
life of gratitude and exclusive worship 
(q.v.) of God (q_ 31:12, 13; see gratitude 
and ingratitude; children; family). 
The striking shift from Luqman's voice to 
God's voice in verses 14 and 15 focuses the 
reader's attention on the commands in the 
verses: be good (see good and evil) to 
parents; show gratitude to God and to 
them; and obey them unless they require 
worship of something other than God (see 
obedience). The sura closes with a warn- 
ing: neither parent nor child can help each 
other on the day of judgment (q_ 31:33; see 


last judgment; intercession). A final 
verse stresses the greatness of God 
(O. 3 i: 34)- Whatever his more specific iden- 
tity may have been, Luqman stands out in 
the Quran as a wise parent, exhorting his 
son to grateful worship of God, grateful 
obedience to his parents, personal piety 
(q.v.) and communal responsibility (see 


A.H.M. Zahniser 

I. AbyarT and 'A. Marzuq, al-Mawsu'a al- 
qur'aniyya, 6 vols., Cairo 1969, vi, 516 f.; Council 
for Islamic Affairs of the United Arab Republic, 
al-Muntakhab ff tafsir al-Qur'an al-kanm, Cairo 
1968; B. Heller/N.A. Stillman, Lukman, in Ef, 
v, 811-3; Horovitz, ku, 132-6; M. Muftic, Which 
oath? Luqman's as given in the Qiir'an or 
Hippocrates's? in The Islamic review and Arab affairs 
56 (1968), 6-8; M. Jalal al-Dln al-Qasiml, Tafsir 
al-Qasimi (Mahasin al-ta'wil), 17 vols., Cairo 1957, 
xiii, 4796. 

AND forbidding; desire; SEX AND 

Lut see LOT 


Madness see 


Madyan see midian 


Originally a term for the professional 
priesthood of the pre-Islamic religious 
institution in Iran, in qur'anic usage it is 
presumably a term for all followers of that 
religion. The Arabic term translated as 
"Magians," (al-majus) is attested once at 
Q 22:17, a late Medinan sura (see chron- 
ology and the qur'an), where the list 
Jews (see jews and Judaism), Christians 
(see christians and Christianity) and 
Sabians (q.v.) attested in Q_ 2:62, now also 
includes them. The etymology and history 
of the term and the question whether the 
Magians are People of the Book (q.v.) are 
the two large issues raised by this single 

The old Persian magus as the title for a 
professional priestly tribe is well attested in 
surrounding languages, Akkadian, Arme- 
nian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, 
Sanskrit and presumably old Sinitic (see 
foreign vocabulary). These religious 
professionals appear to have traveled far 
beyond Iranian held lands. Their religious 

aura seems to have been widely recognized 
but they also played administrative, mili- 
tary and commercial roles. In the Sasanian 
dynasty a wider array of titles were used 
within the priestly bureaucracy but the 
special status of the title in its middle 
Persian forms survived. The older term, 
however, also was widely circulated, pre- 
sumably because of the prominent Chris- 
tian mention of the Magi in the birth 
stories of Jesus. It likely passed into Arabic 
through Syriac (see syriac and the 
qijr'an; Arabic langauge). Early Mus- 
lim commentators do not limit the term to 
professional priests and describe the 
Magians as worshippers of the sun (q.v.), 
an interpretation also attested in Sanskrit 
sources. Later commentators recognize 
that fire (q.v.) is the stereotypical object of 
worship by the Magians. The fire-cult is 
the hallmark of the Magian tradition for 
later heresiographers and in Islamic litera- 
ture, especially within the Persianate con- 


The enumeration of apparently six forms 
of religion in Q 22:17 has been the primary 
focus of commentary (see exegesis of the 
qur'an: classical and medieval). The 
text lists believers, Jews, Sabians, Chris- 
tians, Magians and those who associate 


something else with God (see polytheism 
and atheism; belief and unbelief; god 
and his attributes). Debate on this and 
other passages has focused on the status of 
the intermediate four traditions. Are they 
to be classed with the believers or the 
associators or are they in an intermediate 
position (see faith)? While some have 
argued that there is only one true and five 
false religions here mentioned, the bulk of 
the tradition either recognizes that at least 
some members of the four named tradi- 
tions are to be classed with the believers or 
the traditions themselves are the so-called 
religions of the book in addition to Islam 
(q.v.; see also religion; religious plu- 
ralism and the qjur'an). Whether the 
Magians were to be included among the 
People of the Book (q.v.) was debated since 
it appeared that the religion lacked a 
prophet (see prophets and prophet- 
hood) and a scripture (see book), and 
there was also significant theological con- 
troversy concerning their identity as mono- 
theists and their doctrine of the creation 
(q.v.) and the power of evil (see GOOD AND 
evil; theology and the qjjr'an). 

Apologists worked hard to counter these 
charges and to argue that they belonged in 
the category of religions of the book. The 
story of Alexander the Great's (q.v.) de- 
struction of the original scripture became 
prominent and the attempts already made 
by the Sasanians to organize the remaining 
written tradition were consolidated. The 
legend of Zoroaster was remolded to pres- 
ent him along the lines of Islamic prophet- 
hood. In general, Islamic authorities have 
granted them partial status as a People of 
the Book (see law and the qijr'an). Inter- 
estingly, Muslim authorities have also rec- 
ognized the affinity that exists between the 
Magian priest and the Islamic judge, exer- 
cising a political and juridical role that de- 
pended on the close cooperation of reli- 
gious functionary and ruler, a Persian ideal 

that became central to Islamic notions of 
the state (see kings and rulers; politics 


William R. D arrow 

J.C. Biirgel, Zoroastrians as viewed in medieval 
Islamic sources, in J. Waardenburg (ed.), Muslim 
perceptions of other religions. A historical survey, New 
York 1999, 202-12; Jeffrey, For. vocab.; V.H. Mair, 
Old Sinitic *myag, old Persian Magus and English 
"magician," in Early China 15 (1990), 27-47; 
McAuliffe, Qur'dnic; M.G. Morony, Iraq after the 
Muslim conquest, Princeton 1984; S. Shaked, Some 
Islamic reports concerning Zoroastrianism, in 
jsai 17 (1994), 43-84. 


The art which claims to produce effects by 
the assistance of supernatural beings or by 
a mastery of secret forces in nature. The 
contrast between the rational and the irra- 
tional, of supreme importance to the 
human being, even in the present day, sug- 
gests the question: "Is magic credible?" 
The Qur'an replies in the affirmative, both 
when speaking about magic — describing 
its deeds and consequences — as well as by 
concluding with two apotropaic suras, 
which are often regarded as protective 
talismans (see popular and talismanic 
uses OF THE qur'an), and thus confirma- 
tions of magic. To this could be added the 
various hadlths of the Prophet (see hadith 
and THE qjjr'an) in which something like 
magic is spoken of (see divination; fore- 
telling; gambling), or enchanting magi- 
cal acts that affect the Prophet himself are 
described. Despite this apparent credibility 
of magic, it should be understood that nor- 
mative Islam does not conceive of or admit 
to the existence of powers other than those 
of God (see power and impotence), or 
to a belief that one can accept help from 
anyone or anything other than God (see 



atheism). Magic, therefore, is depicted as a 
distorted appropriation of fideistic values, 
wrongly understood or poorly expressed by 
demons, as the Qur'an itself states numer- 
ous times. 

In this, the religion of the pre-Islamic 
Arabs, who made sacrifices to the gods and 
the forces of nature, and who trusted 
magic without, however, experiencing the 
necessity of believing in a future life (see 
fate; destiny; sacrifice; pre-islamic 
Arabia and THE qjjr'an) is totally differ- 
ent from the religion of Islam. I would 
therefore assert that the hypothesis, put 
forward by various scholars (Ghelhod, 
Introduction; id., L'arabie du sud, for example), 
that Islam might derive from religions 
present in pre-Islamic Arabia should be 
rejected (see age of ignorance; south 


The Arabic word used for magic, sihr 
('from s-h-r), can be understood in both a 
restrictive and an expansive sense. The 
word appears twenty-eight times in the 
Qur'an (q_ 2:102; 5:110; 6:7; 7:116; 10:76, 77, 
81; 11:7; 20:57, 58, 63, 66, 71, 73; 21:3; 
26:35, 49; 27:13; 28:36, 48; 34:43; 37:15; 
43:30; 46:7; 52:15; 54:2; 61:6; 74:24). Sihr 
literally means "enchantment" and etymo- 
logically the word seems to indicate that 
type of seduction which affects a hypno- 
tized person. It can also mean a circum- 
locution of an exaggeratedly rhetorical 
nature (thus one speaks of beautiful words 
giving rise to enchantment). The great 
theologian Ibn al-'Arabl (d. 638/1240) 
defined magic as something that passes 
(surf) from its true nature (haqiqa) or from 
its natural form (sura) to something else, 
something that is unreal, or merely an 
appearance (khaydl). 

From the root s-h-r is derived the qur'anic 
word for "witch" (sdhira or sahhdra; masc. 
sahhar); the infinitive verbal form Sahara 
indicates "to bewitch, to fascinate"; the 

wizard or conjurer is termed sahhar, or sdhir 
(some other Arabic terms for those who 
deal in magic, which do not occur in the 
Qur'an, are sil'dt, "sorceress," and qutrubi, 
"wizard"). The Persian magu (Gk. magos) 
was used by the Zoroastrian priests, and 
furnished the term majus in Arabic, where 
it continued to indicate the Zoroastrian 
priests. It is in this same form that we find 
the word in the Qur'an, used to specify the 
very same Zoroastrian priests (q_ 22:17; see 
magians). To denote an astrologer, or 
fortune-teller, we have the word kdhin, from 
the triliteral root k-h-n. In pre-Islamic Ara- 
bia, the kdhin very closely resembled the 
figure of a priest (the term can be linked to 
the Hebrew kohen, which, for the most part, 
carries the meaning of "priest"). From the 
same root is derived the verbal noun 
kahdna, "premonition and prophecy," and 
kahana, "predicting the future" (o_ 52:29: 
"Therefore, take heed [fa-dhakkir] because, 
by the grace of your lord, you are neither a 
fortune-teller [kdhin] nor possessed 
[majnun]" '; see lie; insanity). But in pre- 
Islamic Arabia, it is very possible that the 
"prophetess" (or sibyl, kdhina) played the 
more important role, with her male coun- 
terpart, the kdhin, as 'ana/Yderiving from 
"irdfa: having a knowledge of invisible 
things and future events), being relegated 
to the function of relocating lost or stolen 
objects (see gender; patriarchy). 

As they pronounced their oracles in 
rhymed prose (q.v.; saj'), the kuhhdn were 
considered poets (shd'ir, pi. shu'ard'; see 
poetry and poets), with whom they were 
often confused in pre-Islamic Arabia. The 
verbal polemics among the Arab tribes of 
this period, occasioned by major feast days 
days), large markets (q.v.), or great pil- 
grimages (see pilgrimage), were famous. 
Each of these tribes was guided by a judge 
(hakam, hakim, see judgment; justice and 
injustice) who was often a poet fortune- 


teller. Such poets would praise the feats of 
war (q.v.), the power and the honor (q.v.) 
of the tribe (see tribes and clans), coun- 
tering the self-praise of his opponents. 
Such contests for precedence and glory 
(mujakharat, munafarat) generated a large 
body of poetic literature which has been 
the subject of study and authentication. 

Various kuhhan enter the legends sur- 
rounding Muhammad, as for example the 
magician Satlh, who is said to have lived 
six centuries and, after having predicted 
the advent of Islam, died on the very same 
day in which the Prophet was born. The 
Qur'an, which more than once alludes to 
the accusations that Muhammad engaged 
in "magic," attests to the fact that the 
Prophet himself was called sahir and 
mashiir, "bewitched," and even "poet" in 
the fortune-teller sense of the word (q_ 10:2; 
11:7; 21:2-3; 25:7-8; 34:43-7; 37 :i 4-5; 38:4; 
43:30-1; 46:7; 52:29-30; 54:2; 69:38-43; see 

polemical language). Walld b. Mughira, 
one of the richest idol worshipers (see 
idolaters) of Mecca (q.v.), was heard 
saying, upon hearing the Prophet: "In all 
this, I find only borrowed magic." 

Despite the qur'anic and Islamic denun- 
ciation, even renunciation, of magic, there 
are two main currents of "magic" in the 
Islamic world: that found in the Mediter- 
ranean region and that of central Asia. 
The first, based upon an ancient philo- 
sophical heritage, evinces the fruits of the 
indestructible Mesopotamian teachings of 
astrology, of numerology (q.v.), and talis- 
manic arts (of which the Babylonians and 
the Chaldeans were perhaps the greatest 
inventors). Also evident here is an Egyptian 
influence (particularly in reference to 
Hermes Trismegistus, Ar. Hirmis al-muthal- 
lath bi-l-hikma), as well as the legacy of 
King Solomon (q.v.), the incontestable 
founding figure of great magicians. The 

second current gathers elements from 
Shamanism, Taoism and Hinduism, all of 
which are very rich in magicians, magical 
arts and magical texts. Whereas the Medi- 
terranean culture gave rise to numerous 
theories and practices which penetrated 
European countries via various forms of 
translation (in particular that of alchemy, 
al-kimiya), the central Asiatic culture gave 
birth to great currents of mystic thought. 
This "mysticism" was studied by various 
Sufi orders (see sufism AND THE qur'an), 
especially in some orders (turuq, sing, tariqa) 
of the Hurflfiyya, the Bektashiyya and the 
Misriyya, wherein it was adapted to the 
charisma of the particular order. 

Let us now turn our attention to the last 
two suras of the Qur'an, o ii3(Surat al- 
Falaq, "The Oncoming Dawn," or "The 
Crack"; al-falaq being the moment of sepa- 
ration between day and night) and Q_ 114 
(Surat al-Nas, "Humankind"), which are 
known as the mu 'awwadhitan, "the two seek- 
ers of refuge." Popular Muslim practice 
holds that by reciting them one is saved 
from curses through the search of a divine 
protector. According to the traditional 
Muslim chronology of revelation (see 
revelation and inspiration), they are, 
respectively, the twentieth and the twenty- 
first suras (see chronology and the 
our'an). As they were revealed in Mecca 
(q.v.), they are considered to be among the 
most ancient. The "darkness" (q.v.; ghasiq) 
mentioned in the third verse of Q_ 113 
("from the evil of darkness as it spreads") 
is, according to the commentators, not evil 
in itself but a favorable moment for the 
propagation of evil, of malicious deeds 
(see EVIL deeds), of criminal acts (see SIN, 
major and minor), of the actions of de- 
mons and sorcerers (see good and evil; 
night AND day). This is linked to the be- 
lief that the influence of magic was more 
easily diffused during the night. The fourth 
verse of the same sura ("and from the evil 


of the women who blow on knots") refers 
to the blowing upon knots made in the 
proper fashion (i.e. tied nine or eleven 
times), a magical practice much in use in 
Semitic circles, above all Canaanite, Meso- 
potamian, Egyptian and Hebrew, but also 
found in many tribes of central Asia. It was 
particularly popular in Jewish circles, 
despite its rigid prohibition in the Penta- 
teuch (Deut 18:9-14; regarding this, one 
may turn to Gen 44:5; Lev 19:31; JVum 
22:7-11; Ezek 21:26-8, etc.; see jews and 
Judaism). An allusion to this practice is 
found in the Sumerian Maqlu (The Burnt 
Tablets), where we read: "His knot is open, 
his witchcraft has been cancelled, and his 
spells now fill the desert." The blowing 
itself, the bad breath and the spit, are con- 
sidered an enemy's curse. Along these 
lines, Babylonian writings define an "evil 
one" as "the one with an evil face, mouth, 
tongue, eye, lip, and saliva." 

Well-known in Arabia long before the 
advent of Islam, these knots were used to 
tie good and evil forces in equal measure. 
As he left his house, an Arab would tie a 
knot around a branch of a hedge. If upon 
his return he discovered that the knot had 
been undone, he understood that his wife 
had betrayed him (see adultery and 
fornication). A similar practice is fol- 
lowed today in the oases of the Sahara 
desert, where healers make eleven knots in 
a red or black woolen thread, reciting at 
each knot the appropriate invocations in a 
soft voice. They then wrap the thread 
around the head of anyone who wishes to 
be healed of eye discomfort. 

Muslim tradition mentions a particular 
situation of this in relation to Muhammad. 
A sorcerer had made eleven knots in a 
rope, reciting spell-like formulas in order to 
do harm to the Prophet, who then became 
ill. He returned to normal health only after 
having recited Q_ 113 and 114 eleven times. 

p_ 113 relates above all to the evil spells used 
against one's physical state, against the 
healthy body, protecting it against that 
which could render turbid one's psyche, 
soul, and serenity (see illness and 
health). It is believed to save one from the 
psychic disturbances inserted in human 
mortals by Satan (that occult persuader; 
see devil), whether through demons (see 
jinn) or through other evil humans (see 
enemies; for further discussion of the use 
of Q_ 113 and 114 as imprecations for deliv- 
erance from evil, see Graham, Beyond, 109). 

The very first sura of the Quran, Surat 
al-Fatiha ("The Opening," see fatiha) 
is also considered a talisman of great 
potency. According to the traditional chro- 
nology, it is the fifth sura revealed to the 
Prophet at Mecca (in the year 610 or 611). 
All of the letters of the Arabic alphabet 
(see Arabic script; Arabic language) 
are contained therein, except seven (J, J, sh, 
th, z, kh, z)- These seven letters came to be 
called "the missing letters of Surat al- 
Fatiha" (sawaqit al-Jatiha, cf. Mandel Khan, 
L'alfabeto arabo, 177). Those who fashion tal- 
ismans consider these letters rich in magi- 
cal virtue and thus often use them in their 

The three suras mentioned above were, 
for many centuries, used as talismans, writ- 
ten on pieces of paper and carried on one's 
person or enclosed in a specially shaped 
case. These cases were often made of silver 
(q.v.) and had an oblong shape, frequently 
in hexagonal sections. From the ninth/ 
fifteenth century onwards, the cases were 
often made from hard stone and no longer 
had an inner space to enclose writings, 
thereby becoming imitations of the origi- 
nal case. Nevertheless, these cases became, 
in themselves, a sort of luck charm, even 
when they no longer contained verses from 
the Qiir'an (see epigraphy and the 


In addition to the above-mentioned 
verses, which are held to be the most effec- 
tive, other verses, of an apotropaic nature, 
were used to ward off danger. For example, 
Q, 21:80, a short verse known as "the tunic 
of arms," or "the iron-shirted tunic," was 
carried into battle by soldiers, in the hope 
of avoiding the enemy's blows. Soldiers 
also made use of o_ 67:22, to guard against 
being bitten by a possibly rabid dog (q.v.) 
or other animal (see amulets for further 
discussion of the use of qur'anic verses for 
protection from harm). 

The Qur'an itself contains teachings re- 
lated to other magical valences, o 41:16-7 
speaks of days full of misfortune. For 
Muslims, the lucky days are Monday, 
Thursday, and Friday. A popular tradition 
of al-Tabarl (d. 310/923; TafsTr, xxiv, 95) 
cites Tuesday as the day in which God cre- 
ated all that is detestable for humankind. 
For the Slrfls (see shi'ism and the qjur'an) 
and for all who were drawn into their 
sphere, the last Wednesday of the month 
of Safar (which is the second month of 
the Muslim calendar; see calendar; 
moon) was notoriously unlucky, and nick- 
named "Black Wednesday." The months 
(q.v.) that were considered to be totally 
unlucky were — always in the Muslim 
calendar — the first month of the year, 
Muharram, and the second, Safar. Islamic 
astrologers used Q_ 41:16-7 to support their 
belief that, according to the days of the 
week and the position of the stars (see 
planets and stars), human beings 
experience lucky days and unfavorable 
days, as reported in full detail by Fakhr 
al-Din al-RazI (d. 606/1210; TafsTr, 
xxvii, 113). 

Two qur'anic prophets have long been 
associated with the realm of magic and the 
esoteric: Moses (q.v.) and Solomon. Narra- 
tives about Moses (Musa) may be found, 
with variations and repetitions, in suras 2, 

5, 7, 10, 18, 20 and 28, in addition to brief 
mention in other passages. In Q_ 20:56-70, 
the Qur'an touches upon his "magic con- 
test," in which, with the help of God, he is 
victorious over the magicians of Pharaoh 
(q.v.). o_ 18:60-82 is understood to allude to 
another magical episode involving Moses, 
which post-qur'anic tradition describes as 
having taken place on a journey in search 
of the fountain "of eternal youth." 

Q_ 2:101-2 and its reference to Solomon 
(Sulayman) is of particular importance 
because it speaks of the probable origins of 
magic on the earth. This was due to Harut 
and Marut, hung by their feet in the well of 
the Temple of Astarte in Babylon. Accord- 
ing to a Hebrew legend, also present in the 
pre-Islamic milieu, Harut and Marut were 
two angels, condemned by God to live 
upon earth because they had become infat- 
uated with a woman (cf. Tha'labi, Qisas, 
43-7 for an Islamic version of this story; see 
harut AND marut for further [Islamic and 
pre-Islamic] details on these figures). In the 
Hebrew environment, this brings to mind 
the "sons of Elohim," who loved the 
daughters of man and the fallen angel, 
masters of magic. 

Al-Baydawi (d. ca. 716/1316-7), using his 
concise and terse style, dedicates an entire 
page of his commentary to Harut and 
Marut, while al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/ 
1 144), in his Kashshaj, devotes a page and a 
half. Even longer sections are to be found 
in the commentaries of al-Tabarl and al- 
Razi (see exegesis of the qur'an: 
classical and medieval). These com- 
mentators discuss another "magical" allu- 
sion in the Qur'an, one found in o 15:16-8; 
37:6-10; 67:5 and 72:8-9: these passages re- 
count how demons sometimes push for- 
ward towards the limits of a celestial 
judicial assembly, listen to what the angels 
and the blessed are saying, and then de- 
scend to earth to treacherously whisper 


what they have heard to magicians and 

In the short verses of o_ 27:17; 34:12-4; 
and 38:34-40, the Qur'an speaks repeat- 
edly of Solomon, and of the magical 
powers which God bestowed upon him, 
offering him the aid of jinn. Narratives 
such as these contributed to the legends 
found in later European sources, in which 
Solomon appears as a great magician, 
endowed with a supernatural power over 
demons, the forces of nature and animals 
(see animal life). He perfectly understood 
all their languages (see Mandel Khan, 
Salomone [in addition to Solomon] for fur- 
ther discussion of the powers of this 
qur'anic figure). According to such tales, he 
even wrote magic procedures in various 
books, which he then had buried under his 
throne (or inserted into its base) and these 
books would one day be re-discovered, at 
least in part, and spread about by ordinary 

Hadlths also speak widely of magic. Abu 
Sa'id al-Khudn (cf. Bukharl, Sahih, 75:33) 
makes specific reference in a hadith to the 
protective value of the recitation of the 
Fatiha used as an act of exorcism. Al- 
Aswad b. Zayd remarked that he ques- 
tioned 'A'isha (see 'a'isha bint abi bakr) 
about the use of magic as a cure for poi- 
sonous animal bites and she answered: 
"The Prophet authorizes its use against 
every sort of poisonous animal" (Bukharl, 
Sahih, 76:37). Also, according to 'A'isha, the 
Prophet was able to perform exorcisms 
while invoking God (Bukharl, Sahih, 76:38, 
2). According to a Companion of Muham- 
mad, Abu Qatada (see companions of 
the prophet), the Prophet stated: "Our 
good dreams (see dreams and sleep; 
foretelling) come from God, and the 
bad ones from the demonic. When one of 
you has a bad dream, breathe three times 
once you are awake, and recite the talis- 
manic suras that protect us from evil, and 

your dream will not cause you any harm" 
(Bukharl, Sahih, 76:39, 1). An evil eye 
launched against the Prophet was also 
described in detail by A'isha (Bukharl, 
Sahih, 76:47). 

On the basis of the magic accepted by 
the Qur'an anc f hadith, there arose a series 
of eminent Islamic scholars, essayists, and 
authors of treatises upon specialized sub- 
jects of magic, some of whom were magi- 
cians themselves. Many books were written 
about the topic from a sociological or a 
psychological point of view. More popular 
works were composed about how to con- 
struct talismans, lucky charms, or an evil 
eye to circulate among people, using either 
praiseworthy "white" magic (al-tariqa al- 
mahmuda) or blameworthy "black" magic 
(al-tariqa al-madhmuma) . The following are 
only the principal figures from this myriad 
of authors: In the third/ninth century 
there were Abu Abdallah Jabir b. Hayyan, 
a Sufi alchemist and magician known as 
Geber in Europe, and Dhu 1-Nun Abu 
1-Fayd al-Misri (d. 246/861), a great Sufi 
master. Later came Ibn al-Nadim Muham- 
mad b. Ishaq, author of the Fihrist (fl. 
fourth/tenth cent.), Abu Hamid al-Ghazali 
(d. 505/1 1 11) one of the greatest Sufi and 
Muslim theologians, and Abu 1-Qasim 
Maslama b. Ahmad al-Majrlti (d. 398/ 
1007), known in Europe as "pseudo Pica- 
trix" (the "pseudo Hippocrates") who, 
along with Ibn Wahshiyya (fl. prob. 
fourth/tenth cent.), was very well known in 
the occidental world, and from whose 
books "the secret alphabets" and the sym- 
bols used by alchemists were taken. In the 
sixth/twelfth century, one can count the 
famous theologian and exegete Fakhr al- 
Dln al-Razi, whose studies are of exem- 
plary balance, and Abu 1- 'Abbas al-Buni 
(d. 622/1225), of whose works manuscripts 
abound (cf. Dietrich, al-Buni). Of para- 
mount importance is the first sociologist of 
Islam, the historian Ibn Khaldun (d. 

-'5 1 

1406), who in his writings dealt fully with 
magic and talismans. In the present day, 
both Yflsuf al-Hindl and Muhammad al- 
Afghanistam of Cairo have written much 
and gathered a large amount of informa- 
tion related to curses and evil spells as well 
as lucky charms. 

Reading the texts of the many Muslims 
who busied themselves with magic, both of 
the authors cited here, and of many others, 
it becomes apparent that, in practice, the 
topic is subdivided into different fields: 

1) the "science of letters," letters divided 
into the quadrants of fire, air, earth, and 
water (see cosmology; nature as signs); 

2) the "mysterious letters" (q.v.) of the 
Qur'an which open some suras, and those 
"missing" in the first sura; 3) the value of 
numbers; 4) the power of the ninety-nine 
exceptional and indescribable name- 
attributes of God (see god and his at- 
tributes), in particular that of the secret 
name, the hundredth, to perform miracles; 
5) the use of the names of demons in invo- 
cations related to black magic. 

We also observe the construction and uti- 
lization of magical quadrants such as lucky 
charms for protection from the evil eye or 
as reinforcements in exorcisms. The culmi- 
nation of this science is the production of 
lucky charms and talismans, for which the 
following are utilized: 1) texts from the 
Qur'an; 2) the hand motif [khamsa, the five 
fingers), called "the hand of Fatima" in the 
West (for one example, see Figure x of 
epigraphy); 3) vegetative and related 
materials; 4) animal motifs; 5) hard, pre- 
cious stones (see metals and minerals); 
and 6) tattooing. 

Some scholars have seen a relation be- 
tween knowledge of these values and those 
necessary for the spiritual evolution of the 
mystic of Islam, the Sufi, who nears a 
greater comprehension of God by rising to 
the seven levels of spiritual evolution, sym- 
bolized by: 1) sound (see hearing and 

deafness); 2) light (q.v.); 3) number (geo- 
metry, construction, subdivision of lumi- 
nosity; see measurement; numbers and 
enumeration); 4) a letter (the secret mean- 
ings of names, grammatical constructions; 
see grammar and the qjjr'an); 5) word 
[dhikr, the recitation of the ninety-nine 
names of God, or the recitation of the 
Qur'an [q.v.]); 6) symbol (see metaphor; 
simile); 7) rhythm and symmetry. 

One can note in summation that while 
the Qur'an counters the human tendency 
to ascribe divinity, or divine attributes, to 
various supernatural beings, it does not 
deny the existence of such beings. Rather, 
while recognizing the human need to come 
to terms with the intangible — be it 
through dreams, fables or magic — the 
primary message of the Qur'an is the 
affirmation of the submission of all of 
creation — visible and invisible — to the 
one God. See also soothsayers. 

Gabriel Mandel Khan 

Primary: al-Afghanistanl, Yusuf Muhammad, 
Kabir kuttdb al-sirr, Cairo 1918; BukharT, Sahih; al- 
Bunl, Kitab Shams al-ma'drif, Cairo 1946; al- 
Darayb, Ahmad, Fath al-Malik al-Majid, Cairo 
1905; Ibu Khaldun, al-Muqaddima, Eng. trans. 
Bollinger Found., New York 1958; Fr. trans. 
Commission Internationale pour la Traduction 
des Chefs-d'Oeuvre, Beirut 1967; RazI, Tafsir; 
al-RudhuwI (RadhawT), Muhammad, al-Lu'lu' al- 
man^umfi 'ulum al-taldsim, Cairo 1926; al-Sharji 
al-Yaman, Ahmad b. 'Abd al-Latlf, Kitab al- 
Fawd'id, Cairo 1903; Suyuti, Jalal al-Dln, Kitab al- 
Rahmafi l-tibb, Istanbul 1961; TabarT, Tafsir; 
Tha ( labl, Qisas, Beirut n.d.; al-Tilimsanl, Ibn al- 
Hajj, Shumus al-anwar wa-kunuz al-asrdr, Cairo 
1904, Istanbul 1938; Zamakhsharl, Kashshdf; 
al-ZarqawI, Ahmad Musa, Alafdtih al-ghayb, 
Cairo 1909. 

Secondary: B. Bambergen, Fallen angels, Phila- 
delphia 1952; J. Chelhod, L'arabie du sud. Histoire et 
civilisation, 3 vols., Paris 1984-5; id., Introduction a 
la sociologie dc VIslam. De I'animisme a I'universahsme, 
Paris 1958; A. Dietrich, al-Bunl, in EI 2 Supple- 
ment, 156-7 [fasc. 3-4]; E. Doutte, Magie et religion 
dans VAfrique du Nord, Paris 1984; Graham, Beyond; 



G. Mandel Khan, Ualfabeto arabo. Still, varianti, 
adattamenti calligrafici, Milan 2000; id., La magia 
neWIsldm, Milano 1997; id., Salomone. Alia ricerca di 
un mito, Milano 1977; S.H. Nasr, An introduction to 
Islamic cosmological doctrines, Cambridge, MA 1964; 
B. Violle, TraiU complet des carrees magiques, 3 vols., 
Paris 1938; E. Westermarck, Ritual and belief in 
Morocco, Casablanca/Paris, 1926-31. 


Maidens see modesty; virtue; sex and 
sexuality; houris 

Maintenance and Upkeep 

Preservation and repair of property, or, 
more commonly in the Qur'an, the care 
for one's dependents. In Islamic law, nafaqa 
indicates the obligation to maintain one's 
dependents (see guardianship). The 
Qur'an uses nafaqa of expenditures in gen- 
eral, even those against Islam at Q_ 8:36. It 
is enjoined by g_ 2:215-6 for the benefit of 
parents (q.v.), relatives (see kinship), or- 
phans (q.v.), the poor (see poverty and 
the poor) and wayfarers (see journey; 
similarly Q_ 17:26; 30:38). Repeated injunc- 
tions to do good to one's parents (wa-bi-l- 
walidayn ihsanan) have also been taken to 
require their maintenance (o 4:36; 6:151; 
17:23; 46:15). Q_ 2:240 calls for the main- 
tenance of the widow (q.v.) for a year, 
apparently from the man's estate. Q_ 25:67 
indicates that they do best whose expendi- 
tures are neither excessive nor stingy. In 
the context of divorce, finally, o 65:6-7 
enjoins husbands to allow their wives to 
live where they themselves do and not to 
be hard on them if they are pregnant (see 

Later Islamic law (see LAW AND THE 
qur'an) lays out the duty of maintenance 
in specific terms, which have the advantage 
of being more or less enforceable by tem- 

poral authority but necessarily lack the 
generous, free character of the qur'anic 
injunctions. Jurisprudents agree that zakat 
covers one's duty of maintenance toward 
non-relatives (see almsgiving; community 
and society in the qur'an). The duty of 
maintenance is laid especially on men but 
also, with reference to Q 2:233 and 65:7, on 
women toward their children (see women 
and the qur'an; birth). Maintenance 
specifically includes food (see food and 
drink), clothing (q.v.), shelter (see house, 
domestic and divine) and the provision 
of a servant (q.v.) if the beneficiary's social 
status requires it (see also slaves and 
slavery; social relations). For men, it 
may also include i'fcif the provision of a 
licit sexual partner (see concubines; sex 
and sexuality). Partly on the basis of 
Q 2:219, wives claim maintenance before 
parents or children, for they provide recip- 
rocal favors. If a husband refuses to main- 
tain his wife, she may ask the religious 
judge (qcidi) to dissolve the marriage. Juris- 
prudents disagree over the relatives to 
whom one owes nafaqa, the Malikis going 
so far as to require maintenance of 
parents and children alone. See also 

Christopher Melchert 

Primary (in addition to juridical handbooks and 
other standard commentaries): Tabarl, Tafsir. 
Secondary: J. Burton, The sources of Islamic law, 
Edinburgh 1990 (esp. chap. 5, on the jurispru- 
dents' reduction of the claims of widows); 
G. Gilliot, Le commentaire coranique de Hud 
b. Muhakkam/Muhkim, in Arabica 44 (1997), 
179-233 (esp. 214-6 for this problem for the 
Ibadites; see bibliography for further references 
for the topic in general, and also for standard 
commentaries and juridical handbooks); 
Y. Meron, ^obligation alimentaire entre epoux en droit 
musulman hanejite, Paris 1971; W. al-ZuhaylT, al- 
Fiqh al-islami wa-adillatuhu, 11 vols., Beirut 1984, 
™, 350-69- 



Majesty see god and his attributes 

MajflS see MAGIANS 

Male see GENDER 

Malice see enemies 

Malikis (Maliki) see law and the 

Manat see idols and images 

Manna see moses; food and drink 

Manners see hospitality and 


Manslaughter see murder; bloodshed 

Manual Labor 

Literally "work with one's hands," it often 
carries the implication of strenuous physi- 
cal exertion. Manual labor is not a topic 
explicitly addressed in the Qur'an though 
the term "forced laborer" (sukhrl) is men- 
tioned once and the Qur'an describes 
some of the ancient prophets (see 
prophets and prophethood) as having 
been able to achieve prominence by using 
forced and voluntary labor in great build- 
ing projects (see art and architecture 
and the qur'an; archaeology and 
the qur'an). 

The Qur'an states that it is God who 
"raises some to levels above others so that 
some of them compel others to work for 
them" (q_ 43:32; see social interactions; 
social relations; community and 
society in the qur'an). The point of this 
verse is not to justify forced labor. Rather, 
it is to deny that this kind of worldly 
power, although permitted by God, is an 

indication of God's favor (see blessing; 
grace; kings and rulers; politics and 
the qur'an; power and impotence; 
authority). Accompanying verses state 
that even though Muhammad was not the 
most successful man in Mecca (q.v.) or 
Medina (q.v.), God nonetheless chose him 
as his prophet. In Q 43:32, "the mercy 
(q.v.) of your lord (q.v.) is better than what 
they amass," the last term is understood 
as a reference to wealth (q.v.) and worldly 

The qur'anic description of Solomon 
(q.v.) regally commanding labor from jinn 
(q.v.) and satans (q 21:82; 34:12-3; see 
devil), perhaps as a form of punishment 
('adhab, q 34:14; see chastisement and 
punishment), contrasts sharply with the 
humble image he and other prophets 
assume in early Islamic literature. Only 
Moses (q.v.) is explicitly stated in the 
Qur'an to have done work requiring physi- 
cal strength (q 28:26). Nevertheless, the 
"stories of the prophets" (qisas al-anbiya') 
relate that all the prophets practiced a 
trade. Books on economics (q.v.) also dis- 
cuss the professions of the prophets: a work 
attributed to al-Shaybanl (d. 189/804) re- 
lates that Solomon wove baskets, Noah 
(q.v.) was a carpenter and Idrls (q.v.) was a 
tailor (ShaybanI, Kasb, 76). 

The significance of the attribution of 
humble labor to the prophets can perhaps 
best be discerned in the story that David 
(q.v.) — who is described in the Qur'an 
only as having been "taught by God" how 
to forge iron (q 21:80) and that God "made 
iron soft for him" (q 34:10; see metals and 
minerals) — actually worked the iron with 
his own hands in order to support himself 
after having been criticized for "eating 
from the state treasury" (ShaybanI, Kasb, 
77). This echoes the criticism leveled 
against the Umayyad caliphs for draw- 
ing from the state treasury for all their 



expenses, in contrast to the "rightly guided 
caliphs" who are said to have tried to sup- 
port themselves (see caliph). 

Similarly, a group of early Sufis (see 
sufism and THE qur'an) is criticized for 
refusing to earn a living, preferring to live 
on charity (see almsgiving). The obliga- 
tion to earn a living (al-kasb, al-iktisdb) is 
particularly advocated by scholars like 
Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855) who criti- 
cize any dependence on the support of 
corrupt governments (see LAW and the 
qur'an). To avoid forbidden earnings it 
may be necessary to engage in manual 
labor, these scholars argue, using examples 
of the prophets and Companions (see 
companions of the prophet) to support 
their position that there is nothing inher- 
ently dishonorable in manual labor (Matt- 
son, Believing slave, 220). Indeed, argues 
al-Shaybanl [Kasb, 73), Muslims could not 
fulfill their ritual obligations (see ritual 
and the qur'an; ritual purity) if, 
among other things, some people did not 
make jars to carry water for ablution (see 
cleanliness and ablution) and others 
did not weave clothes to cover the body for 
prayer (q.v.). 

The issue of the honor (q.v.) or dishonor 
of manual labor is not prominent in the 
Qur'an despite the great importance this 
issue assumes in the corpus of hadith and 
early anti-Sufi polemics (see hadith and 
the qur'an). Similarly, the Qur'an does 
not discuss the effect a woman's status will 
have on whether she is required to perform 
household chores, although this is an im- 
portant legal issue in early Islam (Mattson, 
Believing slave, 192). The Qur'an indicates 
that status differences based on family and 
tribal affiliation (see kinship; tribes and 
clans) were generally more important at 
the rise of Islam than considerations of 
profession. No doubt this can be attributed 
to the fact that the Hijaz at the rise of 
Islam was not as well developed as the 

urban centers of the Fertile Crescent, 
where sharp divisions of labor and here- 
ditary professions were important aspects 
of society (see geography; city; be- 

the qur'an). 

The issue of honor aside, early Muslim 
scholars admitted that it was generally dif- 
ficult and tiring to earn a living. According 
to some commentators, one of the worst 
consequences of being removed from para- 
dise (q.v.) for Adam (see ADAM AND eve) 
was that he subsequently had to exhaust 
himself earning a living (Shaybam, Kasb, 
75). The Qur'an indicates that one of the 
rewards of paradise will be freedom from 
having to engage in tiring work [al-nasab, 
q 35:35; see also maintenance and 

Ingrid Mattson 

Primary: Ahmad b. Hanbal, Kitab al-Wara\ n.p. 
1921; al-Shaybanl, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, 
Kitab al-Kasb, ed. A. Abu Ghudda, Aleppo 1997. 
Secondary: I. Mattson, A believing slave is better 
than an unbeliever. Status and community in early 
Islamic law and society, Ph.D. diss., University of 
Chicago 1999; M. Shatzmiller, Labour in the 
medieval Islamic world, Leiden 1994. 

Manuscripts of the Qur'an 

Within the handwritten heritage of the 
Islamic world (see orthography; Arabic 
script), the Qur'an occupies by far the 
most conspicuous place — at least in terms 
of sheer volume. Until the present day, 
copyists, amateurs as well as professionals, 
have devoted much time and effort to tran- 
scribing the revealed text by hand. It is 
therefore no wonder that the topic "manu- 
scripts of the Qur'an" should cover a wide 
variety of cases: Qur'ans are found in one 
volume {mushaj, q.v.) or sets (rab 'a) from two 
to sixty volumes but also as excerpts, usu- 



ally connected with prayers (see prayer). 
In all these cases, the manuscripts take the 
form of a codex, that is a book made up of 
one or many quires obtained by folding 
together a varying number of sheets of 
parchment, paper or perhaps also papyrus. 
Qur'ans are also found on other materials, 
like wood or textile, and in other formats, 
rolls or sheets, for instance, both being 
used as talismans. The following article will 
focus solely on the manuscripts in codex 
form. It should, however, be noted that the 
study of these manuscripts is unevenly de- 
veloped: some aspects like illumination (see 
calligraphy (q.v.) have already been well in- 
vestigated while others, e.g. the early writ- 
ten transmission of the text, still await 
comprehensive studies. The bulk of the 
material, manuscripts without illumination 
or in more ordinary hands of later periods, 
have not even been examined or cata- 
logued in spite of their importance for the 
study of a wide range of subjects, from 
popular piety to the diffusion of the book 
in the Islamic lands. 

Modern printed editions (see printing 
of THE qur'an) tend to reproduce the fea- 
tures of "classical" Qur'ans — including 
even the catchwords — which were preva- 
lent during past centuries. Yet, before this 
"classical" form was attained, the qur'anic 
manuscripts underwent many changes, at a 
rather rapid pace, during the first centuries 
of Islam. As a consequence, this article will 
devote a great deal of attention to the early 
period, since it witnessed many variations 
and reforms and paved the way for the 
modern qur'anic codex. 

Pre- 'Uthmanic manuscripts 
The first "manuscripts" are only known 
through the reports of early Muslim schol- 
ars. According to their sources, the text 
was initially written on shoulder blades 
from camels (for a later example, see Fig. in 

of fatiha), flat stones or pieces of leather 
during the Prophet's lifetime in order to 
preserve the revelations as they came (see 
occasions of revelation). Even if the 
concept of "book" (q.v.; kitdb) was already 
familiar to the first Muslim community, 
there is no evidence that any codex with 
the text of the revelation was available 
before Muhammad's death (see codices 
of THE qjur'an). Such a format is closed 
and therefore ill-adapted to a situation in 
which the Qur'an was still receiving addi- 
tions. The heterogeneous materials men- 
tioned in the Muslim tradition suggest that 
these amounted to notes meant for private 
use, and hence quite different from a text 
which has been "published" in a sense 
close to the modern use. 

Be that as it may, nothing from these 
early notes has been preserved — another 
argument supporting the idea that they 
were not considered manuscripts in the full 
sense of the word — and the later develop- 
ment of the qur'anic codex left all these 
materials completely aside (see collec- 
tion of THE qjuran). Shoulder blades with 
Qur'an excerpts are known from later peri- 
ods, but do not correspond to any attempt 
to have had the whole text recorded in that 
fashion. According to one Christian 
source, early Muslims did write the text of 
the Qur'an on scrolls, in imitation of the 
Jewish Torah (q.v.; al-Kindi, Risala). Here 
again, though, no material evidence has 
survived that would substantiate that 
claim; the parchment rolls with qur'anic 
text published by S. Ory are rotuli and not 
volumina like the Torah. 

Some time before the sixth/twelfth cen- 
tury, ancient copies of the Qur'an gained 
the reputation of having been written by 
'Uthman (q.v.) or All (see ( alI b. abI 
talib) or other prominent figures of early 
Islam: in some cases, as in Cordoba, the 
text in question contained only a few 
pages, while in Damascus, an entire copy 



of such a Qur'a 

: kept in the Great 

S. al-Munajjid, Etudes, 45-60). Judging from 
the manuscripts that have survived, the 
attribution is often based on a note by a 
later hand but sometimes a colophon does 
seem to lend support to this claim. S. al- 
Munajjid has attempted to counter such 
claims, maintaining that the material 
involved is later, dating mainly from the 
third/ninth century (see for instance 
Topkapi Sarayi Museum, TKS Ai, or Tiirk 
Islam Eserleri Miizesi, TIEM 458 — both 
in Istanbul). Additionally, the above- 
mentioned colophons sometimes contain 
gross mistakes (in Istanbul, one example is 
found at the Topkapi Sarayi Museum, 
TKS Y 745: the copyist is supposed to be 
All b. Abu [sic] Tahb; his name is written 
at a right angle to the normal disposition of 
the text). Original expressions of worship 
developed around these relics: in Cordoba, 
two servants took the bound volume with 
the leaves from a treasury in the Great 
Mosque; a third man, carrying a candle, 
walked in front of them. They all went to 
the place where the imam (q.v.) stood for 
prayer in order to lay the volume on a 
Qur'an stand (al-Maqqarl, .Najh, i, 360; see 
ritual and THE qur'an). A. Grohmann 
has compiled a list of dated early qur'anic 
manuscripts (Problem, 216 n. 17): the oldest 
dates from 94/712-3 but this Qur'an has 
never been published and there is consider- 
able doubt about it. Qur'anic palimpsests 
have also been said to antedate the 'Uth- 
manic edition (Mingana and Lewis, Leaves). 

The Hijazt and Umayyad codices 
The earliest Qur'an manuscripts and frag- 
ments do not contradict the information 
provided by the Islamic sources about the 
"edition" of an official recension of the 
Qur'an by the third caliph, 'Uthman 
(r. 23-35/644-56). Attempts to assign codex 
fragments to an earlier period have not 

been conclusive: the palimpsests published 
by A. Mingana and A. Lewis are certainly 
among the earliest fragments preserved, 
but nothing indicates that they necessarily 
predate many others. The same also holds 
for the two palimpsests sold at an auction 
in 1992. The oldest text on both is written 
in the so-called "Hijazl" script, a designa- 
tion coined by M. Amari in the middle of 
the nineteenth century — he spoke of 
"ecriture du Hidjaz" — on the basis of Ibn 
al-Nadim's (d. ca. 385/995) description of 
the earliest Arabic scripts: 

The first of the Arab scripts was the script 
of Makkah, the next of al-Madinah, then 
of al-Basrah, and then of al-Kufah. For 
the alifs of the scripts of Makkah and 
al-Madinah there is a turning of the hand 
to the right and lengthening of the strokes, 
one form having a slight slant (trans. 
B. Dodge). 

The study of the early Qur'an manuscripts 
and fragments in the Paris collection 
enabled Amari to identify those fragments 
that demonstrated the various features 
noted by Ibn al-Nadim. Unfortunately, his 
work has remained largely ignored, and 
research on these documents did not 
advance significantly until N. Abbott's 
contribution to the subject (Rise of north 
Arabic script). The methodical publication 
in facsimile of these early Qur'ans was 
begun in 1998 (cf. Deroche and Noseda 
[eds.] , Sources de la transmission du texte 

The name of the script — Hijazl — (like 
the designation "Kufic") does not mean 
that these manuscripts were transcribed in 
the Hijaz. The bulk of the material pres- 
ently known comes from three repositories 
of old qur'anic codices, in Damascus, 
Fustat and San'a,'. (The present locations of 
these codices also cannot be taken as a 
conclusive argument as to their origin, 



which remains for the moment uncertain.) 
On the other hand, the fact that the collec- 
tion in Qayrawan does not contain such 
material only has the value of an argument 
e silentio. A preliminary survey shows that 
the script varies widely — as if the pecu- 
liarities of the individual hands were of 
little concern to the scribes, the patrons 
or the readers. This diversity might be 
ascribed to regional habits, but this does 
not satisfactorily explain why, in manu- 
scripts written by more than one scribe 
from the same region, the hands of the 
various copyists are so different from one 
another that they can be recognized at 
first glance (e.g. Bibliotheque nationale de 
France, BNF Arabe 328a f. 28a and b [for 
f. 28a see Fig. 1], or Dar al-Makhtutat, inv. 
no. 01-21. 1). A common standard concern- 
ing the script had probably not yet devel- 
oped, and it would thus be safer to speak 
of HijazI style, rather than Hijazi script. 
For the sake of convenience, we shall use 
here the designation of Hijazi codex. 

The dating of this material relies mainly 
on paleographic arguments: slant and 
shape of the alif, elongation of the shafts, 
but also the similarities with the script of 
the earliest papyri as pointed out by 
M. Amari and later by A. Grohmann. So 
far, no direct evidence — for instance, a 
colophon — has been found. One could 
perhaps expect confirmation from a 
Carbon 14 analysis of the parchment, but, 
since the geographic provenience is not 
clear, such results could only be taken as an 
indication of its age. The dating to the 
second half of the first/seventh century 
can therefore only be tentative, and future 
research might throw light on the chronol- 
ogy of the Hijazi codices. The defective 
writing of the alif(qala instead of qala 
being the best known instance) adds 
weight, however, to the early dating of 
these manuscripts and fragments, some of 
which count the basmala (q.v.) as a verse 

(see Bibliotheque nationale de France, 
BNF Arabe 328a). With the exception of 
these peculiarities, most of the manuscripts 
currently known are very close to the 
canonical text. Some fragments of Hijazi 
codices found in San'a' are said to include 
some textual variants which were not 
recorded by later literature (see readings 
of THE q_ur'an), and to offer an order of 
the suras differing from the arrangements 
of both the canonical text and the codices 
of Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy (Puin, Observa- 
tions, in; see form and structure of 


In these Hijazi codices [of San'a'], the 
script is slender and regularly spread out 
on the page. The spaces between charac- 
ters, regardless of whether the said charac- 
ter is part of a word or not, are always 
identical; as a consequence, words can be 
divided at the end of a line. Clusters of 
dots show the ends of verses but groups of 
five or ten verses do not seem initially to 
have been singled out. Vowels are not 
recorded and diacritical dots are used in 
varying degrees by the copyists; when two 
or more copied a text together, they do not 
appear to have agreed on common rules 
but dotted the letters according to their 
own habits (compare for instance Biblio- 
theque nationale de France, BNF Arabe 
328a f. 7b and 38a). The number of lines 
varies from one page to another, even 
though the copyists used ruling. A blank 
space is left between suras, but some of the 
fragments suggest that crude decorations 
in ink were already allowed (if they do not 
belong to a second stage of the HijSzI 
codices). The sura titles found on these 
manuscripts are often in red ink: they were 
added later. There are a few instances of 
division of the text into seven parts, with 
the indication within the written area 
itself — i.e. British Library, BL Or. 2165, 
where such division is indicated in green 
ink. This is in contrast to the later practice 


2 5 8 

of adding die indications of the textual 
divisions in the margins (the indications 
that do not appear in the margins are also 
additions but the shortness of these marks 
makes it impossible to date them, and thus 
to assess how much time had elapsed be- 
tween their addition and the copying of 
the qur'anic text itself). 

The material available to us shows that 
early Muslims made a choice which was to 
shape the history of the Qur'an as a manu- 
script: they adopted for their own scrip- 
tures the kind of book which was common 
at that time, namely the codex, and started 
copying the text in long lines — whereas in 
other book traditions of the Middle East 
the texts were arranged in columns. Most 
of the HijazI codices are in the then usual 
vertical format, except a few, which are in 
the oblong format that was to become the 
rule for Qur'an codices during the second/ 
eighth century: as the script of these latter 
manuscripts is more regular than in other 
HijazI codices, it has been suggested that 
they belong to a later stage of develop- 
ment — perhaps the end of the first/ 
seventh or the beginning of the second/ 
eighth century. 

All of the earliest qur'anic manuscripts 
that have come down to us were written 
on parchment. The amount of text on the 
few fragments of papyrus published by 
A. Grohmann is too small to establish 
whether Qur'an codices on papyrus existed 
side by side with parchment ones or not: 
these fragments could just as well have 
come from extracts. As is the case with the 
script, the way in which the parchment was 
used to produce quires varies greatly from 
one manuscript to another — inasmuch as 
enough folios remain to allow a reconstruc- 
tion of the original quires. 

The anticipated use of the various HijazI 
codices cannot be determined: the size of 
many of them would suggest a public use, 
in a mosque (q.v.) for instance. Judging by 

the evidence of a Paris manuscript (Biblio- 
theque nationale de France, BNF Arabe 
328a; see Fig. 1), these codices seem to have 
been cared for over a long period of time: 
some places of this manuscript where the 
ink appears to have faded have been writ- 
ten over by a hand which can not be dated 
to earlier than the end of the third/ninth 

By the end of the first/seventh or begin- 
ning of the second/eighth century, a new 
trend was changing the appearance of the 
qur'anic codex. As far as can be deter- 
mined by the best reconstruction of the 
chronology of the qur'anic scripts, it was 
the Umayyad period that witnessed the 
emergence of a style in which the letter 
forms were more regular and the shafts 
more vertical. This may be linked with the 
reforms of Abd al-Malik who decided that 
the chancery of the empire should use 
Arabic instead of Greek and Persian, thus 
promoting the use of the Arabic script. On 
the other hand, one consequence of these 
administrative decisions could have been 
the emergence of the concept of specific- 
ally qur'anic scripts. The script of the 
papyri of the first/seventh century and 
that of the HijazI codices have similarities; 
this will no longer be the case in the follow- 
ing period, and the gap between qur'anic 
and secular scripts will widen. Another 
argument for the dating of this style to the 
Umayyad period are sura headbands of a 
Qur'an found among the Damascus frag- 
ments (Turk Islam Eserleri Miizesi, TIEM 
i?E 321) which are clearly related to the 
decorative repertory of the mosaics on the 
Dome of the Rock (see aq_sa mosque). 
Ornament is thus making its way into the 
qur'anic manuscripts (the evidence that is 
available today indicates that this is the 
first instance of the use of gold in qur'anic 
ornamentation). Other experimentations 
are documented in this group of manu- 
scripts and fragments: in some of them, as 



was usual at that time, a blank line has 
been left between two suras, but the place 
is highlighted by the use of colored inks 
(red and/or green) for the first lines of the 
beginning of the next sura and sometimes 
also for the last lines of the preceding one. 
This is also when groups of ten verses 
begin to receive a special marker, in some 
cases only a letter with numerical value 
(abjad). In one fragment (Bibliotheque 
nationale de France, BNF Arabe 330c), it is 
written in gold. Other attempts which can 
be attributed to this period or somewhat 
later are more puzzling: for example, calli- 
grams with colored inks developing over 
the writing surface. The orthography itself 
was changing: it is far from homogeneous 
from one manuscript to another, and 
sometimes even changes within the same 
manuscript, but overall it does show an 
evolution towards the scriptio plena. 

Another Quran attributed to the Umay- 
yad period is more difficult to evaluate: 
some fragments (Dar al-Makhtutat, inv. no. 
20-33.1) are the only remnants of a large 
manuscript (51 X 47 cm), which originally 
contained about 520 folios. The impressive 
illuminations (particularly the two repre- 
sentations of a mosque) have no equivalent 
and the script foreshadows later develop- 
ments; an elaborate frame surrounds the 
written area on the first folios of the text 
(for examples of these fragments, see Figs. 1 
of fatiha and 1 of ornamentation and 

The qur'anic codex in early Abbasid times 
Our knowledge of the Qur'ans of the 
third/ninth century, which include a few 
dated manuscripts, is fairly developed. The 
earlier part of the Abbasid period, how- 
ever, remains somewhat unclear as the 
information about it is still very scarce. 
Here again, the dating of Qur'ans to the 
second/eighth century relies mainly on 
paleography. But, as compared with the 

evidence from the first/seventh century, 
we are on surer footing in this century, 
since more paleographic evidence has sur- 
vived. The qur'anic scripts of that period 
are traditionally known as "Kflfic," but 
"early Abbasid scripts" would be more 
accurate; the linking of any of them with 
the town of Kufa remaining unclear. As a 
whole, the scripts bear witness to the emer- 
gence of a body of highly skilled scribes 
and a complex set of rules concerning the 
use of the various styles. In the eighties of 
the twentieth century, a tentative typology 
was created in order to classify the mate- 
rial: it defines six groups of scripts (called 
A to F), subdivided into a varying number 
of styles (for instance B II or D IV; see 
Deroche, Abbasid tradition, 34-47; id., Cata- 
logue, 1/ 1. Aux origines de la calligraphic corani- 
que, 37-45). The terminology and results of 
this typology have been used here in order 
to provide clarity to the following account. 
A major development of this period is the 
introduction of a system for the notation of 
the vowels. These are indicated through 
the positioning of red dots with respect 
to the consonant: an "a" — fatha — above 
the letter, an "i" — kasra — below it or a 
"u" — damma — after it; the indefinite 
case ending (tanwin) is noted by a duplica- 
tion of the dot. Although it was reportedly 
invented by Abu 1-Aswad al-Du'all (d. 69/ 
688), this system does not seem to have 
been used before the end of the first/ 
seventh century. Qur'ans f r0 m the Umay- 
yad period have red dots: but are they con- 
temporaneous with the script itself? Since 
the dots were necessarily an addition 
(neither the ink nor paint nor the writing 
implement were those used for the copy of 
the unadorned orthography, i.e. rasm), 
doubt always remains about the time that 
elapsed between the copying of the text 
and the addition of the dots. The system 
was later perfected with the addition of 
dots for the glottal stop — hamza — (green 



or yellow) and the consonantal dupli- 
cator — shadda — (yellow, orange or blue); 
sometimes their modern form is written 
with colored ink. The sign for the absence 
of a vowel — sukiin — is rarely indicated. 
Other signs were used in the Maghrib in 
order to note more accurately the pronun- 
ciation (see Nuruosmaniye Library 23, 
completed in Palermo in 372/982-3). This 
system remained dominant until the end of 
the fourth/tenth century and was appar- 
ently still used late into the tenth/sixteenth 
century for a Yemeni (?) Qur'an. In the 
Maghrib, but also in qur'anic manuscripts 
in Sudani script, the hamza was indicated 
by a dot until very recently (see Biblio- 
theque nationale de France, BNF Arabe 
576, dated 1195/1781). 

Early in the period under discussion here, 
some Qur'ans were still in the vertical for- 
mat: the B I group of scripts could be typi- 
cal for the early part of the second/eighth 
century (see Institute of Oriental Studies in 
St. Petersburg, IOS C 20 or Bibliotheque 
nationale de France, BNF Arabe 331) and 
bear witness to the transition from the 
Hijazi codex — to which its somewhat 
slender script is probably related — to the 
early Abbasid one. Alongside this tradi- 
tion, which was gradually fading out, an- 
other stouter kind of script (akin to that of 
Dar al-Makhtutat, inv. no. 20-33. 1) came to 
be the qur'anic script par excellence. It is 
commonly associated with the oblong for- 
mat, although the change from the vertical 
format cannot have been motivated solely 
by script aesthetics. One reason for this 
shift — unrecorded in our sources, how- 
ever — may have been a desire to give the 
Qur'an a visual identity clearly different 
from that of the Torah (roll) or the Gospels 
(vertical codex; see gospel). Another 
development which probably played a role 
in the horizontal lay-out of the Qur'an, but 
about whose influence on this matter the 
sources are also silent, is the nearly con- 

temporary controversy about writing down 
hadith (see hadith and the qur'an). Dur- 
ing the period, the number of lines to the 
page became increasingly regular: this evo- 
lution may stem from a will to control the 
text more easily. 

The earliest sura titles contemporaneous 
with the copy of the text itself are found in 
manuscripts tentatively attributed to the 
second/eighth century, but such texts are 
not the rule. For, up until this time, the 
suras were separated from each other by a 
blank space or by an ornament — ranging 
from very crude ones to highly sophisti- 
cated illuminations. The headband had 
not yet found its shape: some ornaments 
occupy irregularly the rectangular space of 
the line, others are already enclosed within 
an outer rectangular frame; the vignette 
also appears, sometimes at both ends of 
the headband (see Forschungs- und Lan-